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CHICAGO, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Industry changes and fewer hogs sold at the Illinois Peoria Stockyards have prompted the auction barn's owners to close the facility at the end of the year, ending a nearly 150-year rural tradition.
The last load of hogs was sold on Dec. 23, office manager Carol Clayton said in an interview on Wednesday. Reuters News will no longer publish the daily price report for the Peoria stockyard.
After that, she said, no more animals will be accepted for sale there, and farmers will need to sell their pigs outright to local pork packers or head to smaller sale barns in the area.
Peoria was the last of the major hog auction terminals that dominated the Midwestern landscape in the 1950s, said Ron Plain, a University of Missouri livestock economist.
"Losing these markets make it tougher on smaller producers who use markets like Peoria because they never sell very many hogs at a time and it's costly hauling them to packing plants," said," Plain said.
Over the decades, the number of U.S. hog farms has consolidated, leaving fewer - but larger - producers of the country's pigs. An increasing number of swine, too, are being sold directly to mega packers, such as Smithfield Foods , which is owned by China's WH Group Ltd.
That shift in production and processing also contributed to the auction house's demise, Clayton said.
When Clayton, 72, arrived for work 26 years ago, farmers flocked to the Midwestern auction barn, which sold as many as 2,000 pigs per day.
Now, the auction house sells 100 to 200 pigs on a good day, she said.
"It's sad that it's closing, but it's time to close after our owner, Ron Jenkins, passed away in June," said Clayton. (Reporting by Theopolis Waters; Editing by P.J. Huffstutter and Richard Chang)