Cows on the Waldron Ranch (Photo by NCC)

Cows on the Waldron Ranch (Photo by NCC)

Remote monitoring off-site watering systems

Remote camera for off-site watering systems (Photo by NCC)

Remote camera for off-site watering systems (Photo by NCC)

Solar-powered watering systems are becoming a popular tool for farmers and ranchers looking to help the environment while also improving their livestock operation. This watering method allows producers to provide better-quality water for their livestock while conserving riparian areas.

Technological advancements allow ranchers to check in remotely on these new watering systems to ensure their cattle always have water available and to evaluate the condition of the water source. This is done through photos sent to their mobile device.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will be providing a camera set-up to our leaseholder in the Bow Natural Area to monitor the off-site watering systems on two grazing pastures. The camera will be able to confirm the quality of the livestock’s water source and that the riparian areas remain largely undisturbed.

The cameras will be securely mounted to the watering system and will be electrically sourced by the solar panel connected to the water pump. The cameras will take three pictures daily, which will be sent to the rancher’s mobile device through a SpyPointLink app.

This small piece of technology is especially helpful on grazing sites that may be located far from the livestock producer’s home so that they can be reassured that their cattle always have a reliable water source.

Benefits

Farmers and ranchers live off the land, and they know how important it is to sustain healthy rangeland, pastureland and riparian sites. Healthy riparian and rangeland vegetation are maintained through the extensive root system of native plants that extend beneath the ground. A strong root system means that the land is able to store more water, nutrients and carbon.

Creating a balance by distributing livestock evenly across the landscape to spread the grazing load can help protect vulnerable riparian sites, which provide water and sustainable grasslands over the long term. The flexibility of an off-site watering system allows livestock producers to relocate the herd’s water source in order to implement an evenly distributed grazing pattern. This minimizes repetitive trail use and over-grazing in some locations, which can cause soil erosion and vegetation degradation.

Cattle that drink water from a trough instead of directly from a dugout or open waterway experience increased weight gain and are less likely to develop foot rot and other diseases. Calves can gain up to nine per cent of their own body weight and steers can gain up to 16 per cent, according to a 2017 study by Alberta Environmental Farm Plan.

How much of a difference can this make? On average, beef cattle consume 45 litres of water daily. Cattle need a sufficient amount of water per day and it is hard to minimize the impacts on the land they may cause travelling to and from that water source.

An off-site watering system may improve the quality of water. It can also allow some producers to make use of a pasture that they’ve never been able to fully use before due to lack of a quality water source. This can create new and sustainable grazing patterns that benefit the land.
 

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