120 year tradition ends in South St. Paul

South St. Paul stockyards
Later this month, bulldozers will flatten the 27 acres of Central Livestock to make room for an office park. The last working stockyard in South St. Paul will close Friday after one final cattle auction.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

Millions of cattle, hogs, sheep and goats have gone through the yards during 120 years in business. That made it a place you could often smell before you actually saw.

As the surrounding farmland became suburbs, stockyards' importance dwindled.

More than 3.5 million hogs once went through the yards in one year, but last year the total number of all animals was about a 250,000.


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Jenna Swanson with Central Livestock said the stockyard was once the busiest in the world. She said its closing is bittersweet.

"We've known this was coming for a long time," Swanson said. "But still there are a lot of people who are very emotionally connected to the stockyards, whether it be they rode here with their grandpa several years ago or their uncle was a trucker - there's a lot of people very connected to it."

Swanson said South St. Paul has become a more difficult place to house a stockyard, because there's so much less farmland in the area than when it first opened in the 1880's.

The last calf
The last calf auctioned off the South St. Paul stockyards before the facility is torn down.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

The buildings and livestock pens will be razed for a business park with offices and warehouses, but not before one last goodbye this morning.

The South St. Paul stockyard operations, as well as many of the employees, are moving to the Central Livestock Association stockyard in Zumbrota, Minn.

(Added note: The last calf to go up for auction at the stockyards, a heifer named Timeless, sold for $2,400)