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A stockyard, also known as a livestock yard, is a specialized facility designed for the containment, handling, and management of livestock, primarily cattle, sheep, and pigs, before they are transported to slaughterhouses, auctions, or other destinations. These facilities have played a pivotal role in the livestock industry for centuries, providing a controlled environment for the temporary housing and processing of animals.[1]


Stockyards are an integral part of the agricultural and meatpacking sectors, serving as crucial points in the supply chain for livestock production.[2] Their primary functions include:

Temporary Holding: Stockyards serve as a holding area for livestock before they are sold, shipped, or processed. This allows for the organization of livestock according to various criteria such as size, weight, breed, or health.

Inspection and Grading: Livestock can be inspected and graded in stockyards to assess their suitability for various purposes, including meat production or breeding. This process ensures that buyers receive animals that meet their specific requirements.

Loading and Unloading: Stockyards are equipped with ramps, chutes, and pens designed for the safe loading and unloading of livestock onto trucks or railcars. Proper facilities and equipment help minimize stress and injuries to the animals.

Healthcare and Veterinary Services: Stockyards often have facilities for veterinary inspections and healthcare services. Sick or injured animals can receive treatment, and vaccinations can be administered to prevent the spread of diseases.

Auctions and Sales: Many livestock auctions take place within stockyards, allowing buyers and sellers to negotiate prices and make transactions. These auctions are important for setting market prices and facilitating the movement of livestock between producers and buyers.

Sorting and Grouping: Stockyard personnel are skilled in sorting and grouping animals based on various criteria. This helps optimize logistics for transportation and processing.

Weighing: Accurate weighing of livestock is essential for pricing and transportation planning. Stockyards typically have scales for this purpose.


The concept of stockyards has been around for centuries, dating back to the early days of livestock trading. However, it was during the 19th century, particularly in the United States, that stockyards underwent significant expansion and development. Cities like Chicago became renowned for their massive stockyards, which played a pivotal role in the meatpacking industry and the distribution of beef and pork products across the country. The Union Stock Yards in Chicago process nine million animals in 1890 and employed 40,000 people. The stockyards occupied more than a square mile of Chicago's South Side from 39th to 47th and from Halsted to Ashland.[3][4][5]

Modern Stockyards[edit]

Today, modern stockyards are designed with animal welfare, safety, and efficiency in mind. They incorporate technology such as RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags and computerized tracking systems to monitor the movement and health of animals. These advancements have improved the management and traceability of livestock within the stockyard.

Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility in modern stockyards. Efforts are made to manage waste and minimize the environmental impact of these facilities.


  1. Understanding Livestock Basis. Iowa State University.
  2. Using Futures Markets to Manage Price Risk in Feeder Cattle Operations. University of Georgia Extension.
  3. Learn about Basis: Livestock. CME Group.
  4. The Union Stockyards. WTTW.
  5. OKLAHOMA NATIONAL STOCKYARDS. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.