KINGSLEY, Iowa | When the last head of livestock leaves the Kingsley Livestock Pavilion after 7 p.m. Tuesday, an era in Woodbury County goes with it.
Tuesday's is the last sale at the last sale barn left standing in a place where bids and bidders for cattle, hogs, sheep and more put the county squarely in agriculture's epicenter. A sale of hay starts at 6:30 p.m., with a livestock sale commencing around 7.
The final sale at the Sioux City Stockyards occurred on March 29, 2002, ending a 115-year run. Forty years ago the Sioux City Stockyards was said to be the largest such facility in the world, based on salable receipts. The area that is now home to Home Deport, the anchor in a commercial development, used to see 40,000 head of cattle pass through the gates in a single day.
When the Sioux City Stockyards closed it left the Bleil & Chapman Livestock Auction as the sole such livestock sale barn in Woodbury County. The 15-acre site at the junction of Iowa Highway 140 and Woodbury County Road D-12 between Moville and Kingsley was sold for $85,000 in 2009 to Matt VandeVoort, of Orange City, Iowa, and his brother-in-law, Scott Haan, of Drenth, Mich.
VandeVoort said they're selling the place to a farmer who plans to use the structure for a stock cow and calf operation.
"It's an end of an era, kind of a sad thing," says VandeVoort, who grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle and hogs northwest of Orange City.
"I didn't have it for sale," he adds. "I declined an offer twice before I gave in."
VandeVoort has hosted weekly sales since purchasing the auction site from auctioneers Jim Bleil and Bud Chapman, who ran the business for 33 years. Chapman, who was 87 when he sold out, died in 2010.
Decades ago, loads of cattle came from ranches in Montana and North Dakota to be sold in this ring. Those loads lightened as transportation costs soared and consolidation in the livestock industry pared the number of ranchers and farmers. The Internet also affected trade, as sales were broadcast from points across the nation, and beyond.
"Farming has changed," VandeVoort says. "There are not near as many small farms with livestock, and something (a sale barn) small like ours is becoming a thing of the past. Even on my farm, I feed cattle and hogs and none of what I do is done through the sale barn."
Facilities like this still remain in the Northwest Iowa cities of Sheldon, Sioux Center, Maurice, Denison and Dunlap. There's an auction house in West Point, Neb., too.
But after Tuesday, an era for Woodbury County will be going, going, gone.
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