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Systems success boosted with water certainty

Consistency and certainty of water supply is a critical one for James Brownlie’s 1000ha sheep and beef operation in the higher country of the Urewera district near Lake Waikaremoana.

Saturday, 01 January, 2022

James runs a cell grazing system for bull beef spread across 120 paddocks, almost half the farm’s area, and a good water reticulation system is a “must have” for the operation to succeed.

The system consists of three different water sources feeding into four storage tanks, then gravity feeding via 7km of waterlines into the farm troughs. The demand for water is consistent with 600 bulls run at any one time over 30 mobs, along with the lambs finishing on lucerne crop.

“I believe if you are going to fence animals off into these systems you have an obligation to ensure they have a good water supply to match the feed levels you are offering them,” says James.

He has usually relied upon orange ball float indicators to get an idea of water status on the farm.

“But they present two problems. The first is that you or your staff have to notice them down in order to respond to a problem. The other is that by the time you do notice it, the water can be well down and you have to find the leak before things improve- once the level drops low you also have the risk that you get an airlock in the system.
“Usually a leak will come from a broken pipe, weed clogging the intake point, or a ball cock jammed open. But there is a lot of ground to cover, a lot of troughs and all the pipes are buried.”

James decided he needed a simple, more effective approach to managing his water supply, and opted for Gallagher’s wireless water monitoring system about 15 months ago.

The system’s simple set up and ability to transmit wirelessly fitted well with his four tank system spread across the difficult country.

Consisting of four wireless tank depth monitors, transmitters, home aerials and display screens, the system transmits the tanks’ water status back to James and his manager’s houses.

“We have found keeping an eye on where the water supply is just part of life now – mine is close to the fridge, my manager’s is in his hall way. We would have had four situations where we have had major leaks and the monitor has alerted us to them early.”

He says the screen indicator is a simple display, highlighting if a tank if filling or falling in volume – the red arrow indicating a loss in volume is always a cause for concern if it is at an unusual time of day. He has also been able to better understand water flow patterns around the farm by observing the display.

“It seems that no matter what season it is we will get the animals drinking around 5.00pm, it is a very regular pattern.”

Despite the hilly terrain on his property James had no problems with transmission clarity for the system, with excellent signal strength across all four tanks and two houses.

“For what it has cost me, the time I have saved means it has been more than worth it. I happen to be fortunate in that my troughs are gravity fed, but if you had a farm where the water is pushed out by pump, then the savings for avoiding major leaks over periods of time are even greater.”

James has been a long time user of Gallagher equipment, with his cell grazing system requiring reliable and flexible grazing control. He is also a committed user of Gallagher weigh and EID systems for sheep and cattle.

“I like the direct contact I get with Gallaghers area managers, and it was no different for the water monitor, Ian Moorcock the territory manager has been great to deal with.”

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“We would have had four situations where we have had major leaks and the monitor has alerted us to them early”