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Remote-monitoring livestock water systems – an opportunity thanks to technology

By Alicia Sopatyk, PAg, Regional Livestock & Feed Extension Specialist, Tisdale

June 2019&

Monitoring images of remote watering system
Photos from the high-tech camera system
showing when the trough was full and when it wasn't.

Livestock require water in good quality and sufficient quantity. Direct access to the source can easily provide the required quantity, but quality of the water, bank stability, sustainability, and animal safety become a concern.

Remote or off-site watering systems alleviate the need for direct access, allowing livestock to drink from a trough away from the source. However, reliability is frequently cited as a major (and valid) concern. And, while site visits to check the water system also present a good opportunity to check the herd and refresh minerals, they can be time consuming. The good news is that monitoring technologies are becoming readily available to producers wanting to remote-monitor their water systems. With the help of the ADOPT (Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies) program, the Carrot River Valley Watershed Association conducted a demonstration of two different monitors for summer and winter livestock watering systems.

The first system was low-tech and low-cost: simply a beacon light wired to a secondary float in the water trough. The second system was high-tech and higher-cost: a cellular game camera that took pictures on a user-defined schedule, sending them directly to an app on the user's cell phone. The low-tech system was simple to wire but the light needed to be visible from the yard or road, presenting limitations for remote watering sites. The producer partner also noted that it could be improved by adding a second, different-colored light – one light set to go off if the trough doesn't fill and a second light set to go off if the trough overfills. On the other hand, the high-tech system required more settings and configuration up front but once the schedule was set and functioning, the pictures proved invaluable. The high-tech system held up in all seasons and temperatures and provided good-quality pictures three times a day.

Ensuring livestock have a secure water source is beneficial from production, animal health, and environmental standpoints, as well as from a consumer viewpoint. Regardless of the type of water system, it should be monitored to ensure it is working properly and providing good-quality water to livestock at all times. And, while nothing can beat a site visit to check the animals, these monitoring systems proved invaluable to enhance efficiencies and increase confidence in remote watering systems.

For more information on water monitoring technologies, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1‑866-457-2377.

This project was supported by the Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) initiative under the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2 bi-lateral agreement. For more information on this program, search "ADOPT".

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