Remotely Monitoring Farm Livestock

I've had a few city customers mention that they've got a farm in a distant rural area and they'd really like to be able to tap in and see their cattle, horses, sheep or other livestock. They wonder if there would be an affordable solution.

The first problem is that in many of these areas, the only source of Internet beyond dial-up is 3G cellular. That means that any monitoring is going to need to be brief or else the bandwidth costs will be huge.

However what I really wanted to ask about is what kind of cameras members have found to provide clear pictures for monitoring grazing land. Some kind of PTZ would be required to give both a general overview and then the ability to zoom in on an animal. I think it's fair to assume that this is to be a daylight-only solution as anything distant in the dark is going to require an expensive thermal camera. While that might be useful for a farmer on the farm, I don't think a "city farmer" is going to get much value out of a thermal camera if they are wanting to recognise a prize horse for example.

My current feeling is that a box camera on a pan tilt positioner is what should really be used but it's likely to cost several thousand dollars and then be compromised by a slow 3G cellular Internet link.

I'd welcome any suggestions for cameras that have been found to work well for monitoring nearby and distant livestock on a remote farm with a preference for affordable [that doesn't mean cheap] solutions if they exist.

A better approach would be a number of mid-resolution cameras (3-5MP) fixed to cover the main points of the property set to do an image upload every ~15 minutes.

I can tell you from firsthand experience, if you do this over 3G they're going to overrun the data plan in a matter of days by leaving live video up for too long and it's going to be nothing but headaches.

A "dedicated" Internet connection (cable modem, etc.) will give you the possibility of dedicated/live viewing. A portable Internet connection (mobile broadband) is going to give you a lesser (but still workable) solution.

PTZ controls over mobile broadband can vary from slightly laggy and frustrating to almost unusable. For hobby-farm consumers I'd be careful about that approach.

Thank you, the image upload is a very good idea for dealing with the lack of bandwidth issue.

Trail cameras are popular for farms.

e.g., Cellular Trail Camera, also related discussion Need CCTV Coverage Of 1000 Acre Farm

Hi John, thank you for these very useful links. I see the Reconyx SC950C Cellular Enabled HyperFire Security Camera now supports cellular carriers in 10 countries in addition to the USA. At the time of the article, only carriers in the USA were supported.

Luke, there are a few other providers of cellular trail cameras so it might be worth asking a few Australian distributors what they carry or know of that has local support.

Thanks for the tip John. I'll definitely do that.

If there isn't a WISP in the area, I think you just found a new venture?

I hate to use the A word, but Analog may be your best option. Or low res digital. They don't care if the cow has a fly on its ass. They care where the livestock in general are.

Hi Nick, why might analog be a good option? Is that just because of lower bandwidth due to lower resolution or did you have something else in mind?

Low resolution might certainly help with low bandwidth issues but the clarity might or might not be adequate depending upon how big a paddock needs to be monitored.

Hey. Bandwidth, yes. I mean, you can get pretty decent bandwidth out of some IP cameras, but if you're just trying to get a basic view of what's going on, go with what was done wirelessly 20 years ago: analog. If you have the luxury of testing out different options, do that. If you don't and are pretty certain they're going to have poor bandwidth and pretty certain they'll be happy with just a general idea of what's going on, analog will probably be okay, or low res IP. Really depends what they're trying to monitor. If they want to see the license plate on the wolf that ate their sheep, that may be a problem.

Thanks for the extra details Nick. Now I understand.

By the way, since you dared to bring humour into this thread ...

A farmer wants to monitor his horses but he's having problems getting a stable image.

A farmer wants to find out who has been cutting down his wheat but he keeps missing the offender because the CCTV image was cropped.

I've been looking for a good camera system to monitor cattle but I haven't heard of any good ones.

Feel free to retaliate!

When the council of horses was asked if the resolution was sufficient, they unanimously said, "Nayyyy."

The farmer wanted to put a camera on the pole, but the cow told him to put it on the udder one.

The rancher wanted to film his chickens, but was concerned that it would show it ****.

The farmer wanted video of the farm house, but didn't want anyone to see him getting down and dirty with his hoes.

What did the former Army Ranger say when he became a farmer and lost a pig? "I've got a black hog down. I've got a black hog down."

Another thing to consider would be onboard storage. Some cameras will let you put on for example 32GB of onboard storage then only transmit an image every few seconds. That way you can go back forensically if something happens, and still have a general idea of what's going on in the meantime over poor wireless.

Hi Nick, yes it seems increasingly likely that this is the style of system that will have to be used. In many cases, it seems that a PTZ just wouldn't be suitable either because of bandwidth issues and/or because the zoom might be inadequate.

I would assume that this May be a wide open area and that there may even be a high point, such as a silo. Point to point 900, 2.4 or 5 ghz would generally work good here, even if near line of site. If you have other outlying areas, and some hills, ubiquiti has a secondary port with Poe pass through for radio redirection (at the remote site) or daisy chaining. Most ip ptz cameras will run under 15 watts (parked) so you would not want to set a tour if on solar. Problem may be if you are in a zone that needs heaters, which can add an additional 10-15 watts. Solar with batteries can be assembled for usually under 1500 bucks. Most modern ip cameras use Poe or 24vac so you would need some type of inverter to convert dc to 120/24 vac (depending on whether you use 12 or 24 dc power).

Go to someplace like the altenergystore for resources for solar calculation and pricing for your regional zone. If you are down south (Texas?) you are golden.

Hi Jeffrey, thanks for your very helpful information. You're right about the wide open areas in many cases and a point to point wireless system could be a feasible option. Thanks for the solar information in regards to PTZ cameras, that's very helpful.

I am a bit further down south than Texas ... in Australia but all your points are relevant and very helpful. Of course I wouldn't want to mount a camera on a silo as the image might be grainy ...

I was thinking as the silo as a place to put radios from the headend. High points are a plus to start the wireless to remote sites. If you had power there, you can redirect to the farmhouse. Ubiquiti nsm-5 radios or their new grid devices would work great.

Thank you Jeffrey. I have no experience with Ubiquiti so I'll check out the nsm-5 and grid devices. That sounds promising.

The standard nsm (available in 2.4 and 5) is about 200 dollars a set and runs on 12vdc (solar) and will go half a mile. The air grid will go further but needs better alignment. You could go with the rocket device and an omni or sector antenna at the headend/high point (depends if headend is centralized or on edge of site) with the grid or panel devices at the sites. Use google earth to lay out and check distance. You could also run a 900 in parallel if some sites are not line of site or trees/hills in the way (I assume not much interference potential from cell towers and urban environments).