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BarnTools Water Meter Installed

Smart Water Use Starts with Intelligent Monitoring

May 20, 2022

Headshot of BarnTools COO Jim Ryken

Jim Ryken


While there are a number of vital nutrients necessary for poultry and swine to thrive, none are as important as water, especially when it comes to overall health and performance.

Water aids in food digestion and elimination, and is vital to metabolism. For poultry, water helps birds regulate body temperature. Swine will drink approximately 10% of their body weight in water. Without sufficient water, they can experience constipation, salt poisoning and even convulsions.

Given that water is such a vital part of animal production, water consumption monitoring has largely been overlooked or downgraded in importance.

For years, daily water consumption data has been requested by integrators only to end with weekly or monthly notes hand-written on paper slips sitting in an office.

Historical vs Actionable Data Real–Time Possibilities

In today’s business environment, data is everywhere. However, pieces of disconnected, historical data are useless if not analyzed in time to aid in decision-making. The value of data skyrockets when it can be captured in real-time and shared in a manner that provides actionable intelligence.

On the farm, this level of data collection and analysis means producers and integrators are able to quickly understand what’s happening on farms, and react to negative or potentially harmful events to mitigate potential losses or plan for the future.

For example, real-time water consumption data can alert producers to conditions that might decrease animal performance, giving them time to react and stem losses.

For integrators, the same data can be used to assess water demand to help ensure the farm’s water sources will be able to meet the demands of today’s birds – an important variable given that poultry water consumption levels have increased by 50% in the last 25 years.

Answers Made Wireless

The growing availability of reliable cellular connectivity in rural North America combined with rapid advancement of wireless technology is making actionable data an affordable reality.

Water meter

BarnTalk Wireless Water Meter

What does the deployment of this technology mean for the average producer as it relates to water consumption and overall water use on the farm?

1. Water flow and animal performance

There are a number of correlations between water consumption and animal health and performance. For piglets in a nursery, ideal water flow is about 2 cups of water per minute; any lower can reduce feed intake.

For poultry, water consumption is vital from the minute chicks are placed as they arrive with some level of dehydration and can drink 40% of their weight in water during the first 24 hours. Lack of water can negatively impact a chick’s immune response.

The impact of decreased water consumption on performance is often more measurable as the relationship between water, feed and weight gain is linear.

If water consumption slumps by 10% so will weight, and therefore profit. Wireless alarms that monitor water flow and consumption, even down to the line, can alert producers to water consumption related issues before the bottom line is hit.

For integrators with the same monitoring and alarm system across a complex, it would allow insight on a scale never before possible: active water consumption monitoring on an individual line level across an entire operation.

2. The true cost of equipment performance and failures

When a waterline bursts, a nipple drinker leaks or lines are clogged, the monetary impact can be assessed a number of levels.

In addition to the impact on consumption, one must also consider the cost of repairing or replacing equipment and how the leaks affect the environment.

For example, leaky nipples or a burst waterline in a poultry house can cause wet litter problems.

Wet litter can exacerbate ammonia challenges and cause paw burns. In extreme situations, a waterline burst could cause mass casualties.

With wireless monitoring and alarm systems, producers get real-time insight on issues on individual water lines before they become even more harmful to the animals and the environment.

Alarms can be triggered to notify users of leaks or stoppages of water within hours to potentially prevent loss of life, and stop the other related impacts on an operation.

3. Decreasing costs and increasing stewardship with water conservation

Water conservation is important for various reasons in animal production. Not only does efficient water management maximize this valuable resource, it decreases costs both from initial use as well as waste disposal.

For example, leaking waterlines on a sow farm eventually leads to excess water flowing into the pit.

This water increases the amount of manure that will need to be ground applied, and the gas and other natural resources needed for that task.

The Potential of Wireless Alarm Systems

As the industry becomes more familiar with wireless technology, the value can only be expected to increase making the industry more sustainable, efficient and profitable.

At the same time, the initial cost of investment will decrease as ease of installation and use improve, and hardware costs decrease.

Evidence of both can be seen in multiple 90-day trials done with the BarnTalk wireless barn alarm at major poultry and swine integrators.

The equipment necessary to complete these trials was installed in less than an hour per location, and the onsite staff was training on the alarm system within 15 minutes.

All facilities employed line-level monitoring and alerts were triggered from human error and mechanical failures.

On average, the animal and resource losses that were prevented from the alarms delivered a return on investment for the complete system cost in less than 90 days.

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