Using Technology to Keep Water Up to Cattle

May 24, 2022

Phil Goddard, and his wife Gail, have been managing Mundabullangana (Munda for short) station for some 15 years. Phil says, for the last two years, his daily routine has been to wake up, go to the loo and, before doing anything else, to go and check that all cattle on the 280,000Ha station have access to water. This is done by checking the computer screen where he can see monitors on 200 water supply points across the station.

Munda Station, owned by the Thompson family for 26 years, is located just south of Port Hedland and runs approximately 6,000 fully accredited Droughtmaster breeders, their progeny and 280 Stud bulls. In such a hot climate, water availability is the key to animal welfare and survival. In 2017, following three years of very dry conditions, the decision was made to use radio frequency technology to monitor all water points on the station.

Over many years, Michael Thompson and Phil have focused on providing tanks and troughs at 5km intervals. It improves grazing options, therefore offering a higher level of animal welfare, and has been a key factor in being able to take care of cattle until it rains. Munda has 200 tanks across the station. The bores that supply these tanks all have solar pumps. While this was great for the cattle and the business, it meant that they needed a fulltime person to do a “water run” to ensure that every tank had water.

Phil and Michael purchased Telemetry technology from Mait Industries which has allowed sensors to be set up on tanks, with the data then being relayed back to a computer in Phil’s home. Phil may have 3-5 tanks that come off a bore and these are all connected by pipelines, therefore requiring one sensor to be placed on the tank furthest from the bore. If there is a problem with the pump, it will be identified by a declining water volume in the furthest tank. Phil is using sensors on 70 tanks across Munda, which allows him to monitor the water supply to cattle from 200 water troughs. Each Telemetry sensor has a camera attached, so Phil is able to take a close look at the trough being fed by this tank, if required.

Munda has 70 tanks set up like this. Note the camera.

Phil said that in the morning he may notice that one tank is at 75% capacity instead of the normal 90-100% and straight away he knows that he has a problem. If the tank on the end of the line is at 75% capacity, Phil will know that the other tanks have at least a similar amount of water in them, as they are all connected tanks from the one bore. He can act straight away to fix the problem before tanks become empty and animal welfare becomes a concern. The problems are rectified the same day and the cattle never have to experience the added stress of facing an empty trough.

The Telemetry technology, and being able to monitor bores from the office, still does not eliminate the need to do a physical “bore” run. Troughs will still need to be cleaned and checking on cattle wellbeing is still a must. However, not having to allocate a fulltime person to check pumps and waters across the 280,000Ha station frees up valuable time to attend to other duties.

Phil said that he could never go back to not being able to check water points from the office first thing each morning. It has saved him time, saved wear and tear on vehicles and, most importantly, has given him peace of mind that all animals on Munda Station have access to water, especially when conditions are hot and dry.