Peace of mind
Did you shut the gate? Did you fill the water tank? Did you check the electric fence? Growing up on my parents’ cattle ranch near Mitchell, South Dakota, these were commonly-asked when I was in charge of chores and my dad was busy doing other things.
With the 2015 cattle market looking to be the second-best on record, making sure the cattle are safely tucked away in their designated feedlot, pasture or field, and have access to enough water on hot days, might be more critical now than ever before.
My dad spends a large chunk of his days riding the four-wheeler checking fences, troubleshooting issues and making sure everything is as it should be. It just makes sense — both as a good business model and from an animal welfare standpoint. But wouldn’t it be more efficient if we could make checking these things a little easier?
One benefit of new technology in a modern beef production era is the tools available to help cattlemen work smarter not harder. For example, my dad is a huge basketball fan, but we also calve during the winter months. He doesn’t want to miss basketball games, but he also needs to be around in case a heifer or cow needs help. An investment in a wireless camera hooked up to our ranch wifi and strategically placed in the calving barn has allowed him to check cattle while watching the game, and he wonders what he ever did without it.
I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Eagle Eye Monitoring Systems, a company founded by Ryan Escure, a rancher and engineer based out of Quincy, Washington.
After several years working as an electrical engineer, when Escure had the chance to come home to the 1,000-acre family farm and raise crops and run cattle with his dad, he jumped at the chance to get back to his roots. Escure and his father Patrick reorganized the operation — automating the irrigation equipment and designing a new strip-till gooseneck planter for planting corn. With his engineering background, Escure was able to install and manipulate the equipment and software to fit their needs.
Soon he realized others could benefit from his ideas. The concept of an electric fence monitoring system came to him in the spring of 2012 when while driving a tractor in the field planting corn, Escure watched his neighbor gathering some of his cattle that had gotten loose after the electric fence when down. Escure started thinking, “Why can’t that cattle fence call me? The irrigation equipment does?”
Escure began researching and formulating a plan, and within a year, the first prototype was completed. Eagle Eye Monitoring Systems, LLC, was established in September of 2014, and his neighbor was his first customer.
“Eagle Eye monitoring systems products are developed with the farmer in mind because not only are we engineers we are farmers as well,” said Escure. “We use these products on a daily basis on our own farm equipment. We are seeing a lot of demand for our security alarm products — from high-end car lots, to aluminum fabrication shops, to zoos, to livestock producers. We’ve built alarm systems for farmers to place on their farm equipment to keep batteries from getting stolen out of the fields. We’ve built systems that can tell when an electric fence goes down and alert you when your cattle tank is down. The possibilites are endless, and we have several new products in the works that will fit the needs of folks who would like help monitoring things in their operation.”
So how does it work? The mobile fence link can run off batteries, solar power or electricity. If the fence is down, someone opens or closes a gate connected to that fence, a waterer is low or an electric waterer’s power goes out, the operator will receive a text message alert to his phone. The cost is $60 per year for 600 texts, and the unit is safe for all weather conditions.
“The Electric Fence Sensor costs $1,600 and detects voltage from 100v up to 25,000v,” said Escure. “We know this is a big investment for ranchers, but with the value of cattle right now, keeping them safe and off the road is critical, and this tool lets you know the fence is down before the cattle do. We’ve had a lot of ranchers jump on this technology because they like the added security and the relief of not having to worry about whether or not the fence is down.”
Each unit can be adjusted to a certain voltage, and it will alert the user if the voltage drops or goes out completely.
“This is designed not to create false alarms, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a customer report a false alarm,” Escure said. “If the unit sends you a text message, there’s usually a reason. If, for example, a corn stalk blows onto the fence intermittently, the user will not be alerted to this. It’s designed to report a true outage.”
For Eric Williamson, a rancher located in central Washington, the 7-8 Eagle Eye Monitoring systems he’s purchased have been money well spent.
“We run yearlings on crop residues, so we have a lot of temporary fence located along main roads that we need to make sure are in working order,” said Williamson. “These systems gives us some peace of mind. We have the monitors set up to send us texts if the fence is down, if the water tank is low, and if someone opens and closes the gate. The monitors are accurate, and in a lot of cases, the units save us a lot of time and trouble.”
Williamson said the majority of their fencing issues stem from deer running through the fence, and while he can’t control the wildlife passing through his fields, the monitoring systems help him react quicker to a problem verses learning about the down fence only when the cattle are already out.
“The liability of accidents if a driver hits a cow that is out combined with the value of these cattle made purchasing these units a no-brainer for us,” said Williamson. “We don’t have to check our fences as often, and we are glad to have this product.”
Escure added that these units work even in remote areas where cell phone service is spotty. When asked how long it takes to set up a unit, he said, “It takes less than five minutes to set up, and four of those minutes are for pounding in the post.”
Being able to work remotely was important for Joe Anderjaska, an Angus breeder based out of Hayes Center, Neb.
“It takes less service to send a text message verses a phone call,” said Anderjaska, who uses the unit to monitor his water pipe system in his pastures. “We did have to set up our pole a little bit higher for the texts to go through, but otherwise, it works well in our remote pastures. The monitor gives us peace of mind and saves a lot of time and travel. During the heat of the summer months, we were driving out to check waterers daily, but now with a text message, I know when the pipe isn’t keeping up, so I can immediately fix the problem. If I don’t get a text, I know all is well, so I can save 50 miles of driving time.”
Anderjaska heard about the monitoring systems from a friend in Kansas, who was running some cattle for him.
“When I first heard about this device, I was somewhat skeptical, particularly if it would hold up in tough weather conditions” admitted Anderjaska. “However, after several hail and lightning storms, it’s still working great. Sure the initial cost seems expensive at first, but once we made the purchase, we quickly realized the value and it’s less than the price of one calf. To us, it’s money well spent.”
After visiting with Escure and several Eagle Eye customers, I’m pretty sure I know what my dad is getting for Christmas this year. An electric fence monitor can prevent major accidents, protect valuable livestock, alert to troubles, offer peace of mind and reduce the number of hours and miles spent on a four-wheeler or horse checking fences. If you’re like us and would need multiple units to track the various pastures in a rotational grazing system or to monitor several fields during fall crop residue grazing, contact Escure for a volume discount. F