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‘Bore-ing’ Chores made simpler with Telemetry

Posted by Bestprac on Dec 06 2010

By Liz Guerin


Rough tracks, wear and tear on farm vehicles, fuel and the time taken to check watering points at the furthest corners of their property were the impetus for Warren and Jane Luckraft of Bendleby Pastoral, near Orroroo SA, to implement a water telemetry system three years ago.

Observed initially at various Field Days Warren says that they now have two water telemetry systems in place which currently cover 80% of watering points. With plans to install a third system, the Luckrafts will have 100% coverage on the property.

The telemetry systems are UHF radio systems utilising local UHF repeaters. A base UHF radio with cell call can be used to check water by calling a set channel. Another UHF hand-held radio (with a solar panel to charge the battery) is installed on the tank, which, when accessed by the base radio will report on the amount of water in the tank and sensors on the inlet valve tells whether water is running into the tank.

“By using common sense, if we call up when it is windy we can actually tell if the windmill is pumping” said Warren. “It used to take around an hour to get out and check water and get back again - now we can do that without leaving the kitchen.”

Warren says that the system was initially expensive as they needed to upgrade their radios to cell call capacity, but the system was not difficult to set up.

“We did some sums and the economics added up” Warren said. “What we’ve got is pretty simple – and if you monitor the daily water level closely, we can ascertain pretty quickly if there is a problem with a trough, pipeline or pump and be on top of it.”

The Luckrafts telemetry system is managed locally by Farm and Business Communications at Booleroo Centre, so they have local support should anything go wrong. Despite this, Warren says that their system has essentially been maintenance free.

“We had some minor battery issues with one system, but they were due to a bad batch rather than any system fault” said Warren. “Should anything go wrong, our local bloke’s phone number is inside the box – I can call him on my mobile phone and get an answer straight away.”

Warren says that one of the key features of his telemetry system is that it is simple to operate.

“A lot of the work you can do yourself without losing your hair” he joked. “I’m a simple bloke and the things around me have got to be simple.”

The Luckrafts estimate that that since installing their telemetry system they have saved close to 10 000km annually of bore running.

“We’re saving wear and tear on vehicles and when you cost out kilometres saved out at $0.50/ km, we’re saving $5 000 plus the time (roughly 200 man hours annually) we can divert into other activities” Warren said.

Warren says that in the three years their telemetry systems have been operational, the probes have never told him a lie.

“We’ve never had an issue regarding reliability - if it says it’s above three feet then it’s above three feet and if it says you’ve got a foot, well, that’s all you’ve got” he said.

Despite the system’s reliability, Warren says he always visually checks the tank anyway.

“Our grazing regime is rotational so we’re quite often moving sheep around and when we go past a tank we naturally check it” he said. “You’re doing other things at the same time anyway like cleaning troughs, and checking pipes and ball cocks.”

Warren says that water telemetry has saved them a lot of time and a lot of money.

“Whilst it obviously doesn’t tell us if a sheep is in a trough or clean them out for us, we don’t need to physically get in the car to see what’s going on – we can do that from home which is a huge saver” he said. “We consider telemetry a valuable tool in addition to other methods of checking.”

For further information about Warren and Jane’s Water Telemetry System, refer to the Bestprac Australian Pastoral Property Innovation Manual (p160).


Last changed: Feb 07 2012



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