Goodbye to historic St. Joseph Stockyards

Here are scenes from the last beef cattle auction as the sale barn closes after 134 years.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

May 26, 2021

26 Slides

Rusted metal gates. Holes in wooden fences. Concrete cracking. Mark Servaes knew changes to the iconic St. Joseph Stockyards were on the horizon, but an aggressive buyer for the land situated between the river and railroad in northwest Missouri led him down a different alleyway — one that ended in the closing of the 134-year-old livestock sale barn.

“I never did want to sell it,” the Atchison, Kan., native says of the stockyards located in downtown St. Joseph, Mo. “I kept putting them off and just had a very aggressive buyer.”

Servaes says with the regulations inside the city, it was only a matter of time before updates were needed. “I probably could have made another two or three years,” he notes, “but it just made sense to finally [sell] two or three years earlier than I wanted to.”

The St. Joseph Stockyards opened in December 1887. At that time, it sat on 413 acres. It became a booming livestock market where upward of 500,000 animals were auctioned off annually in the early 1920s. By 1953, the sale barn garnered the eighth-largest cattle market in the country.

Over the years, this stockyard has seen many owners. Servaes purchased the facility in 2012. He shares his journey into the stockyard business.

Mark Servaes

Farm Progress · Mark Servaes on St. Joseph Stockyards closing

One person who has been at the St. Joseph Stockyards a little longer than Servaes is Greg Clement. Known as the voice of the St. Joseph Stockyards, he started as an auctioneer in 1984.

“I've literally been doing the markets for St. Joe on the radio for 33 years,” he explains. And at one time, he served as the liaison between the stockyards and the public. “I've been here long enough, you know, 37 years, I guess that I pretty well know what's going on.”

Clement shares about the early days of bid calling in northwest Missouri.

Greg Clement

Farm Progress · Greg Clement on St. Joseph Stockyards


About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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