Fencing costs are one of the most expensive aspects of livestock grazing. The type of fence constructed greatly impacts the cost per foot, total cost, and annual ownership cost. In addition, the shape of the paddocks affects the amount of materials needed and labor required for construction of the fence.
This publication compares the costs of building a 1/4-mile (1,320 feet) straight perimeter fence with four different types of permanent fencing plus temporary interior fencing. These are: woven wire, barbed wire, high-tensile non-electric, high-tensile electrified, and temporary interior fencing.
The type of fencing selected varies by personal choice and the species of livestock to be confined. In general all configurations shown can be used with cattle, woven wire and high-tensile electrified can be used with sheep, and woven wire can be used with hogs.
The list of materials needed for each type of fencing is from Fencing Costs for Nebraska (see references at the end of the article). Costs were adjusted to 2005 prices provided by a number of Iowa retailers, although prices may vary. Labor was figured at $13.60 per hour, the average fence building labor charge reported in the 2005 Iowa Custom Rate Survey, FM-1698. Gates have not been included in the estimates.
Fencing can be configured in many different ways, using various types of fencing materials. The examples in this publication provide a general comparison between the following five configurations.
Woven wire fence
The woven wire fence (see Table 1) employs a brace that uses two 8-inch diameter posts and a 4-inch diameter cross-brace at each end. Posts between the braces are steel “T” posts alternated with 4-inch diameter pressure-treated wood posts. All posts are spaced 12 feet apart with one strand of barbed wire at the top.
Barbed wire fence
Materials for the barbed wire fence (see Table 2) are similar to the woven wire fence except that five strands of barbed wire are substituted for the woven wire and single strand of barbed wire.
High-tensile non-electric wire fence
The high tensile non-electric fence (see Table 3) uses 8 strands of 12.5-gauge high-tensile wire on 4-inch diameter pressure-treated wood posts. Posts are 20 feet apart. Bracing utilizes three 8 inch diameter posts and two 4 inch diameter cross braces on each end. Wire tension on this fence is maintained with springs and ratchet-type tensioning devices.
An alternative would be to set posts 30 feet apart and place two stay rods in the wire between each set of posts. Cost would be reduced about $65 for every 1,320 feet of fence, or $0.05 per foot.
High-tensile electrified wire fence
The high tensile electrified fence (see Table 4) uses five strands of 12.5 gauge high tensile wire with three charged and two grounded wires. Bracing utilizes three 8 inch diameter posts and two 4 inch diameter cross braces on each end. With the exception of brace posts, steel “T” posts spaced 25 feet apart are used. One quarter of the cost of an electric energizer is included in the cost of the 1,320 foot fence on the basis that such a unit would be used to energize at least a mile of fence. Wire tension on this fence is maintained with springs and ratchet type tensioning devises.
Electrified polywire fence (interior use only)
The polywire fence (see Table 5) uses one strand of polywire. With the exception of the end posts, fiberglass rod posts are used and spaced 40 feet apart. One-fourth of the cost of an electric energizer is included in the cost of 1,320 feet of fence on the basis that such a unit would be used to energize at least a mile of fence.
If substituting polytape for polywire, the total will increase by about $30–$35 because polytape costs about twice as much as polywire. If substituting high-tensile wire for polywire, the cost will increase by about $75 (change includes switching to 5/8-inch diameter fiberglass posts).
Estimating ownership costs
Ownership costs for each type of fence also vary (see Table 6). In addition to the initial material, labor, and construction costs, owners need to determine depreciation and maintenance costs required over the useful life of the fencing. An average annual ownership cost is estimated for each type of fencing. The ownership cost of polywire and polytape is more difficult to estimate than for other types of
fencing. The non-wire/tape components have an estimated life of 25 years; the polywire and polytape will likely last about 4 to 5 years. Based on these estimates, the annual ownership cost for a polywire or polytape fence is approximately $0.03–$0.04 per foot.