Farm Transitions: Valuing Sustainable Practices—Fencing and Watering Costs

These calculations are based on a 40-acre square pasture, ¼ mile on each side. One mile of fence will enclose the pasture. Other pasture sizes and shapes are very common. Cost per acre of fencing will increase if a smaller area or oddly-shaped area is enclosed. Cost per acre of fencing will decrease if a larger area is enclosed.


Construction cost per foot of high-tensile electrified five-wire fence: $1.24

  • Construction cost per mile: $1.24 x 5,280 ft. = $4,699.20 (rounded up to $4,700)
  • If the 1-mile fence encloses 40 acres, construction cost = $117.50/acre.
  • This fence has a 25-year lifetime, so $117.50/25 = $4.70/acre/year fence construction cost.

Annual maintenance and ownership cost of high-tensile electrified five-wire fence: $0.12/foot/year (1)

  • Annual maintenance cost per mile: $0.12/ft. x 5,280 ft. = $633.60
  • Spread over 40 acres: $633.60/mile/year / 40 acres = $16/acre/year fence maintenance cost

Cost for temporary divider fence for managed grazing: $0.20/ft. (1)

  • Cost for ½ mile of temporary fence: $0.20/ft. x 2,640 ft. = $528
  • Four-year lifespan, so $528/4 = $132/year
  • Spread over 40 acres: $3.30/acre/year for temporary fencing to do managed grazing


Cost to run 1 mile of 1-1/4” irrigation plastic pipe with fittings and a 100-gallon tank: $3,000 (2)

Spread over 40 acres: $75/acre

Estimated 10-year lifespan, so $7.50/acre/year for watering system

A couple of things to note:

  • This is for an above-ground system and the cost figure does not include the labor costs to lay the pipe in spring and remove it in fall.
  • Thoughtful layout of paddocks and configuration of the watering system can reduce costs; the system may require significantly less than 1 mile of pipe.


(1) Estimated Costs for Livestock Fencing. Updated December 2012. Ralph Mayer and Tom Olsen; revised by William Edwards and Andy Chamra. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. File B1-75. (accessed 8/20/13).

(2) The ABCs of Livestock Watering Systems. 2006. Ben Bartlett. Midwest Plan Service, Iowa State University. (accessed 8/20/13).