Sioux Falls Stockyards cattle sales to end
Sioux Falls, SD seemed like an ideal location for a livestock auction market facility. When three Denver businessmen decided to invest in a facility, they understood that the area was a highly productive livestock and feeding area, in addition to being close to John Morrell Packing Company. On September 13, 1917, the Sioux Falls Stockyards opened their doors. At the time, there were no railroads and the idea of modern trucks was unheard of. Most cattlemen drove their cattle to the shipping yards on foot. Soon, the Sioux Falls Stockyards was one of the largest livestock stockyards in the country.
The rich history of this once-thriving business has molded and changed over the years. With urbanization crowding the facility, the Sioux Falls Stockyards has recently hit a crossroads with city officials. June 24 and 25, 2009 will be the final days to sell fat cattle at the stockyards. While hog and sheep sales will continue at the facilities, the stockyards are up for sale. For Manager Paul Scott, it’s a sad situation to watch as countless individuals are impacted by this decision.
“With the ending of cattle sales at the Sioux Falls Stockyards, we are hoping to break even and keep the doors open for sales of sheep and hogs,” said Scott, who has worked at the facility for 33 years. “However, we are also hoping to see someone purchase this facility soon.”
Scott noted that this day has been coming for nearly four years, when city officials began placing water restrictions on the facility. After the stockyards were officially considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), the city starting dealing with the facility’s water issues.
“We have been in negotiations with Sioux Falls over water issues ever since we became a CAFO,” said Scott. “Rainwater could no longer go into the storm sewer, which in turn gave us more water to go through the system. We tried to bargain for 250,000 gallons per year, but they have slowly raised our restrictions each year. We are now limited to 150,000 gallons per year. It only takes a half-inch of rain for us to be out of compliance.”
Scott recognized that the facility has been out of compliance with the water regulations 12 times in the past four years. City officials also offered the facility the option of building a roof over the grounds, but as Scott mentioned, that would be a tough investment.
“One of the city officials recently said that we were in a unique situation where our facility is landlocked within the city, unlike other yards that are located in the country,” said Scott. “Well, when first built, this was the country. The city built around this livestock arena. We always felt that we were good neighbors to city, but it seems we are no longer wanted.”
Scott said that the closing of this facility would directly impact 25-40 jobs. However, once the doors are closed to cattle markets, a domino effect will occur and the buyers, truckers, commissioners, farmers and contractors will all be touched by this decision.
“It’s kind of uncertain where business will go next,” remarked Scott. “Some of the commission firms have indicated that they will probably direct their business towards Madison, SD or Pipestone, MN. It’s sad to see this happen. There are so many producers that have been utilizing this facility for years. In fact, we have one customer that has been bringing his cattle here for 62 years.”
While rumors have been spreading about the facility’s inability to pay county property taxes, Scott doesn’t see this as the issue behind the closing of this cattle facility. Scott noted that a decline in cattle numbers sold along with the stringent water restrictions have ultimately lead to the decision to sell this livestock arena.
“We are hoping someone will buy the stockyards and take it over in some capacity,” said Scott. “Who knows what will happen in the future? It’s an unfortunate situation, and I hate to see the doors close to cattle producers. I would like to thank all of the buyers, sellers and commissioners for their business. This has certainly been a great place to work.”