TIME-CONSUMING: Checking tanks and water troughs can be a time-consuming process when done manually. But, technology is helping automate the process.

Reliable internet drives gains

TELEMETRY systems are increasingly being rolled out on many pastoral properties across SA, including here at Billa Kalina, via Roxby Downs, ensuring more efficient labour use and, more importantly, peace of mind.

TELEMETRY systems are increasingly being rolled out on many pastoral properties across SA, including here at Billa Kalina, via Roxby Downs, ensuring more efficient labour use and, more importantly, peace of mind.

Water is essential in the pastoral zone. With more than 100 tanks and troughs, and some watering points more than 80 kilometres away, it can often take significant time to check them.

The time it takes to oversee and monitor tank levels and troughs has been significantly reduced through internal wi-fi and remotely operated cameras, which are run through a series of repeaters and small towers at 14 watering points across the property.

A UHF system was previously used but Billa Kalina switched to wi-fi about six months ago and there are plans to install it at a further 10 sites in the coming years.

The cameras are recording 24 hours a day. Footage can be downloaded, stored and checked by logging in on a phone or computer. The cameras are charged by solar batteries and, unless there is significant cloud cover, they continually re-charge.

The ability to have 24/7 footage means livestock can be checked as they come to water, while also keeping an eye out for wild dogs and other pests.

The benefit of a wi-fi system ahead of UHF is that staff can use a smartphone within 20 metres of the watering points, making it easy for them to act on any issues.

If they see a problem with a calf or cow, they can take a photo and send it to me, which makes it much easier to try and recognise the problem

Safety is also increased by being able to use a mobile phone to make calls, rather than relying on a satellite phone.

The system uses satellite internet – the Sky Muster – and the station was recently upgraded from 20 gigabytes to 80GB. This upgraded system data and internet has made a huge difference – meaning we can now make wi-fi calls from the house on our mobile rather than having to rely on the satellite-based home phone system, which can be unreliable.

These days, wi-fi is like air-conditioning; it’s a given not an added benefit. Billa Kalina is about 150km from the nearest town so having improved internet and phone services helps staff members and my three teenage daughters feel connected with family and friends.

There are some other interesting technologies emerging in the field of data and cameras. At Meat & Livestock Australia’s recent Red Meat Conference in Alice Springs, NT, there was discussion on new and upcoming tools for the livestock industry.

One of these was a new property mapping system that also focused on vegetation and aimed to help pastoralists decide where to put pipelines, watering points and fencelines. 

There are also unmanned vehicles, drones and walkover weighing – all of which are becoming more readily available and, importantly, more affordable.

The Bureau of Meteorology has installed a new weather station at William Creek and along with the Marla/Oodnadatta Natural Resource Management group and local pastoralists are working on developing a feed budgeting model using this station. It will incorporate temperature, transpiration and wind strength to help with calculations.

These technologies offer livestock producers huge opportunities for productivity gains and ways in which to better use resources.

But, it remains vitally important that producers are able to access consistent phone and internet coverage from data providers.

Thankfully there are now many more options that producers can access to boost connectivity, depending on cost, so get in touch with providers and look at what structures they may be able to use to help improve internet access.

But, there still needs to be a focus on more widespread internet along outback roads.

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