The historic St. Joseph Stockyards will hold their last livestock sale this month.
Mark Servaes, owner, said the stockyards have been sold to a local company and will close their gates May 19. The facility has been a hub for selling livestock since it was established in the 1800s.
After the original building was destroyed in a fire, the St. Joseph Livestock Exchange Building was constructed in the early 1900s. At one time, all the needed office space was housed at that location, 601 Illinois Ave.
Servaes said the stockyards in St. Joseph were once the third largest in the country.
“Livestock used to be sold on the bricks which means they were sold privately in the pens,” Servaes said. “In the 1970s, the auction barn that we occupy now was built.”
The St. Joseph Stockyards was owned by Canal Capital Corporation, a New York based company, from 1963 until 2012 when Servaes purchased the facility.
Servaes lives in Atchison, Kansas, and runs a cattle operation with his father.
He began working for the cattle firm United in 1991 and in 2001 he took over managing the yards.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting all of the customers,” Servaes said. “We have between 700 and 800 customers. I’ve met a lot of people and have done business with them. They have become friends.”
Last year, there were over 85,000 head of cattle moved through the stockyards.
“There are commissioned firms at the yards,” Servaes said. “We still sell through firms the old stockyards way. The way the old river markets work is you consign to an auction. They had firms for identity purposes in the old days and we continued that style.”
The four firms that handle feeder cattle are United, Boos/Penny, Missouri and National.
He said the St. Joseph Stockyards are the last remaining river market.
“Over time, the access to the locations of the stockyards became less friendly for farmers and tractor trailers,” Servaes said. “That made it more difficult.”
The stockyards will hold their final slaughter cow and bull auction on May 17 and will hold their final feeder cattle auction on May 19. The sales will start at 9 a.m. and will follow existing rules.
The St. Joseph Stockyards are located at 4603 Stockyards Expressway. The stockyards can be contacted by phone at 816-238-0626 and found online at www.stjoestockyards.com.