The Sioux City Stockyards, once the busiest yards in the nation, will close down its pens and auction sales April 1.

"There will be no more stockyards. It'll really be something," Roger Gaswint, manager of the yards said Friday. "It's all your smaller farmers who come in here who are going to be impacted. It's going to be tough on those guys. They will have to find a sale barn farther away to sell their cattle. They'll have to go to South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska."

The yards, which used to handle thousands of cattle, hogs and sheep, fell victim to changes in the livestock industry that saw most of the cattle sold directly to packers.

"I remember 30 to 40 years ago when I'd come to the yards with my father they would run 50,000 head on a Monday," Gaswint recalled. "Now, on the every other Mondays that we have the special feeder cattle sale, we'll run maybe 1,200 head."

On those Mondays, the yards have auctions at 8:30 a.m. for slaughter cows and bulls, at 10 a.m. for fat cattle (or slaughter cattle) and at noon for feeder cattle. On Tuesdays, the yards sell sheep and feeder pigs.

"We're hosting a special buffalo sale here on Saturday, Dec. 8, and on Dec. 10 at noon, we'll be hosting the Salvation Army calf sale," he said.

Gaswint said that in its heyday, the Stockyards "had the most money of any business in Sioux City turning over here. It will be missed by quite a few people."

In 1973, the Sioux City Stockyards became the No. 1 yards in the world based on saleable receipts for all types of livestock. More livestock was sold there than at any other terminal market. Sioux City sold more livestock than St. Paul, Minn., and Omaha, usually the top yards. In 1972, Sioux City ranked second.

In 1969, the Sioux City stockyards was the country's top hog marketing terminal, a designation it held for a number of years.

The stockyards got its start in 1887 when the Union Stock Yards invested $775,000 as a show of faith in the yards' potential as a thriving livestock market, including money for the Exchange Building, a bank and construction of the Silberhorn and Fowler packing plants.

The Sioux City Stock Yards was organized following an amendment to the Union Stock Yards articles of incorporation. That same year, Sioux City's Peavey Grand Opera House was dedicated.

The Sioux City Livestock Exchange was formed in 1888, with 10 members to represent commission firms and market interests. Through the boom years and the recessions, the yards saw packing plants come and go -- with Cudahy, Armour and Swift being the "big three."

Due to its proximity to the Floyd and Missouri rivers, the yards was damaged by rampaging flood waters numerous times. It was the scene of some spectacular fires and the murderous Swift & Co. explosion.

The most recent disaster took place on May 15, 1998, when the Livestock Exchange Building caught fire, severely damaging the structure. Now, it will be taken down by the wrecking ball sometime in the future as part of the area's redevelopment.

The original part of the building was designed in the Romanesque style of architecture and was completed in 1894 by the Union Stock Yards Co. It replaced another building destroyed in an 1893 flood. The Livestock National Bank was added to the east end in 1915. That addition was designed by famous architect William Steele.

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