Farm Horizons, August 2008

Minnesota stockyards dwindle

Sara Butterfass
Staff Writer

The stockyards of South St. Paul were a major industry for the city when it was formed, and it remained an important center of business for more than a century.

Founded by the Union Stockyards Company, the South St. Paul Stockyards opened in 1887 and boasted the largest livestock market in the world from 1974 to 1981. After 122 years of operation, and enough livestock passing through the gates to circle the earth’s equator more than 10 times, the historic stockyards closed their doors for the last time on April 11, 2008.

A little less than four months have passed since the stockyards closed, signifying “the ending of an era.” Local farmers and haulers are still coping with the change. Jake Diers, owner of Diers Trucking of Howard Lake, has been hauling cattle for almost seven years. Before South St. Paul’s stockyard closed, 90 percent of the cattle he hauled were taken there. Now, Diers must drive an extra 30 miles to the HAAS Livestock yards in Cannon Falls, making the journey a total of 90 miles one way. He travels this route an average of four times a week.

Diers said that he had mixed feelings about the South St. Paul Stockyards closing. “It’s sad to see it go, but it wasn’t what it used to be. It was time for it to close,” he reflected.

There are now three major stockyards in Minnesota – in Albany, Cannon Falls, and Zumbrota. These stockyards belong to two companies. The yards in Albany and Zumbrota are operated by the Central Livestock Association (CLA), and the yard in Cannon Falls is operated by HAAS Livestock Selling Agency Inc.

The CLA was formed as a commission firm at the South St. Paul Stockyards in 1921. It took ownership of the stockyards in 1999 and owned the business until its close four months ago. HAAS Livestock was founded the same year, 1887, that the South St. Paul Stockyards opened.

The closest of the yards is still 60 miles away from the local area, with the farthest being just more than 100 miles away. The longer distances have led to higher trucking costs which have to be passed on to the farmers. Diers said that “[the costs] are hitting farmers a bit harder.” The extra expenses, coupled with their own fuel costs as well as rising feed costs, make it harder for farmers to cover all the expenditures they incur just trying to make a living.

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