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Estimating Farm Building Costs

Article by: Tom Fallon Farm Buildings & Infrastructure Specialist Kildalton

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.

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 81 per m2 95,823 34,749
Side-cladding 27 per m2 7,614 1,539
Tank *70 or 80 per m3 55,790 27,120
Cubicles and beds 200 each 23,200  
Concrete floors 27 per m2 17,955 6,642
External Walls 182 per linear m (143/m over tank) 16,942 10,186
Sliding doors 129 per m2 15,222 8,785

Feeding barriers

(per bay)

108 (straight rail) 1,728  
263 (diagonal)   1,578
Feeding barrier walls 30 per linear metre 2,016 864
Automatic scrapers 3,500 per passageway 14,000  
Pen divisions with drinkers, calving gates etc.     3,900

Water troughs

265 each 1,060  
56 small drinkers   112
Electrical work 350 per bay 5,600 2,100
Cubicle mats 104 each 12,064  
Cattle crush and holding pens (including concrete)     6,417
Miscellaneous (stanchion bases, beams, up and over gates etc.)   4,353 4,265
Total 273,367109,206
Number of animals   116 50
Cost per animal   2,356 2,184
Roof, tank and cubicles for dairy unit (% of total)   55.5%  
Roof and tank for suckler unit (% of total)     57%

*Typically a single tank will cost €80 per m3 while a double tank will cost €70 per m3