With the mercury tipped to top 40 degrees in parts of Victoria this weekend, farmers, agents and activists are raising concerns over the lack of shelter at the Bendigo Livestock Exchange.
Bendigo farmer Andy Hay, whose family has been selling sheep in the region for almost a century, said cover at the yard was well overdue.
"This coming weekend it's going to be 40-plus degrees and there's no shade in there," he said.
"The agents and the sheep work under very trying conditions.
"They get very stressed — heat's very bad for sheep, especially because they need to be locked up the day before and then taken to the yards, so they're virtually off water for 24 to 48 hours."
He said the conditions at the yard had changed the way he conducted his business.
"Usually when I know it's going to be 35 to 40 degrees, I don't send them to the market," he said.
'I can lose kilos'
Nutrien Ag Solutions Bendigo livestock manager Richard Leitch said the Bendigo Livestock Exchange was one of the biggest saleyards in the state and saw more than one million sheep pass through every year.
Mr Leitch said he had been calling on the City of Greater Bendigo to address the problem for more than a decade.
"It definitely stresses the animals," he said.
"Animals packed at that density at the saleyards, it's not good for them.
"But not only the animals — you can imagine what it does to us.
"On 43-degree days I can lose kilos in body weight … in the concrete yards it can get very hot."
He hopes new calls for shelter that are being led by a group called Melbourne Sheep Save will help to bring about change.
Farmers back activists' push
Melbourne Sheep Save volunteer Zerin Knight started a petition asking for the City of Greater Bendigo to cover the saleyard and conduct an independent review into its safety.
"Every other major saleyard in Victoria, as far as I'm aware, has got some shelter," Ms Knight said.
"Even the water requirements at the yard are minimal, given there are thousands of sheep at any given time crammed together.
"We're going to present our petition to council and ask they provide shade for these animals.
"We're after 1,000 signatures and we're almost up to that.
"Interestingly, there are farmers who have also signed the petition."
Council claims funding fix
City of Greater Bendigo manager business services Ben Devanny said council was reviewing operations at the Bendigo Livestock Exchange and hoped to make a decision in the coming months.
"If it is a priority to look at, then how do we find funding for it? It'll be a significant structure — it's a big facility," he said.
"It's just tough to find funding in State, Federal and local government.
"Bendigo is a little bit behind the curve now and it's something that we're working on and looking to address.
"I think everyone who works out there would love to see cover."
Mr Devanny said measures to make sure the saleyards remained safe for livestock would remain in place.
"That's around the timing of the sale and, if they potentially start earlier, we're looking to get some sheep run through earlier in the day," he said.
"They can be on site for 24 to 48 hours until they're transported, but they have access to water throughout that period."ABC