Victorian saleyard staff are working overtime and at risk of fatigue as operators scramble to fill a labour shortage in some of the state's largest sale facilities.
Some operators say they are struggling to find suitable workers as young people turn to higher education rather than physically-demanding careers.
Victorian Livestock Exchange managing director Wayne Osborne said the labour shortfall was a growing problem.
"There's a big labour shortage in the industry and we're struggling to find appropriately-skilled people to do the job," Mr Osborne said.
The VLE operates the Leongatha, Pakenham and Warragul saleyards and employs about 40 people.
"It's not that they need to be overly experienced; if they've grown up on a beef farm and have worked cattle with dad then that's usually enough but it's a bit of a case of trying to find these people nowadays," Mr Osborne said.
Saleyards across Victoria have faced increased demand in this year as high volumes of cattle enter the store and prime market systems off the back of higher than normal rainfall in parts of eastern Australia.
"We think it's partially a result of younger people being constantly encouraged to go to university rather than a more physical work career and we're not on our own in this," Mr Osborne said.
"Livestock carriers are also under increased pressure to get drivers so the shortage presents a number of complex issues for us."
Mr Osborne said one in two applicants to were "not suitable" to these jobs in VLE saleyards.
"The danger is relative to the level of training and competency and experience and that's where we have to pre-screen people to see that they're at a base level for us to start with," he said.
"We've had to increase our level of pre-screening so they'll go through an induction process which lasts two hours and then another hands-on assessment with livestock which goes another two hours.
"At the very least we want to know if they can recognise danger."
Mr Osborne said while "standards weren't being compromised", the labour shortage meant staff were working increased hours due to less frontline workers.
"On any given market we need about 20-22 staff if not more to allow for breaks but over the course of the last three months we've lost 11 people due to people getting other jobs, pregnancies and injuries and so on," he said.
Outcross Agri-Services Victorian operations manager Peter Brooker said it was important the work environment was a welcoming place to secure reliable, long-term staff.
The company is contracted to supply staff, software and consultation to saleyards at Mortlake, Hamilton, Yea and Casterton.
"It is hard to find staff but when it's crunch time you can normally find enough people in your phone book," Mr Brooker said.
"We try and make it a happy environment so people want to come to work; when you're running cattle it's fast-paced so we want people to be enthusiastic."
Mr Brooker said the company found it challenging to expand its services to Bendigo but after placing an advertisement in the local paper "we found the right people".
"Sometimes if saleyards are close to a city, it might be hard to find people with an agricultural mind," Mr Brooker said.
"Fortunately the saleyards we work at are all fairly isolated from the big smoke and we seem to attract hard-working people who want to work in saleyards."