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Estimating Farm Building Costs

Tom Fallon Farm Buildings & Infrastructure Specialist Kildalton - October 2022

Expenditure on farm buildings is by its nature a long-term capital investment that needs careful planning, both from a financial and a technical point of view. Good workmanship and correctly specified materials are also essential if it is to stand the test of time and prove good value for money.

Planning farm buildings takes time as every farmyard is different and there is usually more than one suitable option. It is also good to visit other farmyards to gather ideas and feedback from other farmers. This pre-planning stage can take a number of months. It is important to engage with an agricultural adviser/consultant so that the farmer is happy that he/she has a plan to suit their needs while meeting requirements for labour efficiency, environment considerations, Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) requirements etc. The planning permission process and approval for a Tams grant can take approximately 8 months. Arranging finance and builders to do the job will also be necessary. The closing date for the last tranche in TAMS II is Friday December 16 2022.

Ideally significant building work should commence in the spring so start planning at least a year earlier!

After coming up with ideas for a farm building project, the first question on everyone's mind is, how much is it going to cost?

Generally, the best approach is to divide up the proposed structure into its parts and write a detailed schedule of costs item by item. This is the method used by farm building contractors when they are compiling a quotation.

Having an itemised quotation is of benefit both to the farmer and the contractor. It helps to avoid disputes over what was or was not included in the price. In that way, charges for extras or for modifications to the original plans won't come as a surprise.

Itemised Costs

Itemised costs for a dairy unit and a slatted cattle unit are outlined in Table 1. Floor plans for each of the units are shown in Figures 1 and 2.

In order to write an itemised costing like this, it is essential to refer to detailed plans/drawings of the proposed development. These drawings will have to be prepared for grant purposes and planning permission.

The drawings prepared can be used to accurately price the job by multiplying measurements from the drawings, e.g. roof area (m2) by the cost of that item as shown in the second column in Table 1.

Follow the same procedure for each element of the building. The total cost calculated can be compared with quotations you get from contractors.

Table 1. Itemised costs for a dairy and a suckler unit

ItemsCost per item €Dairy Unit costs, Figure 1(€)Suckler unit costs Figure 2 (€)
Roof 125 and 140 per m2 147,875 60,060
Tank 100 or 140 per m3* 79,700 44,070
Cubicles and beds 230 each 23,200  
Pre-cast cubicles   7,254  
Concrete floors 30 per m2 19,950 9,720
External Walls 200 per linear m (157/m over tank) 18, 614 9,048
Sliding doors 161 per m2 18,998 10,964

Feeding barriers

(per bay)

143 (straight rail) 2,288  
350 (diagonal)   2,100
Feeding barrier walls 33 per linear metre 2,218  
Automatic scrapers 4,400 per passageway 17,600  
Pen divisions with drinkers, calving gates etc.     7,049

Water troughs

495 each 1,980  
112 small drinkers   224
Electrical work 350 per bay 5,600 2,100
Cubicle mats 80 each 9,280  
Cattle crush and holding pens (including concrete)     9,260
Miscellaneous    12,240 8,000
Total 364,297162,595
Number of animals   116 50
Cost per animal   3,140 3,252
Roof and tank (% of total)   62% 64% 

*Slatted tank costs vary depending on size, whether double or single tank so €100 and €140 per cubic metre is used for the dairy and suckler tanks respectively

Costings based on available information October 2022