It has been just over a month since the Esperance Shark Lake abattoir closed its doors without warning - and sheep producers still haven't received an update from operator Minerva Foods Australia, as to when, or if, it will reopen.
The redmeat processing giant has remained tight-lipped, with chief executive Iain Mars only releasing a single statement last month, to say the company was conducting a review of the facility.
Mr Mars said the site would not be operating while the review was being undertaken to fully analyse what further investment was needed.
Mt Howick farmer Bob Reed said the site's shutdown was at an unfortunate time for those in the industry.
Mr Reed, who farms 100 kilometres east of Esperance, had 500 old-season ewes and 500 crossbred lambs, which Minerva had agreed to process at a future date to be decided.
He was glad to sell his livestock locally and said the processor was glad to receive them, however it didn't happen.
Now he, and many other producers in the area, are carrying extra sheep onfarm while they are looking for kill space elsewhere.
"(Minerva Foods Australia) still haven't announced whether or not they are going to return to the plant," Mr Reed said.
"We have been left in the dark, I would imagine they'd be prepared to make the call if they were ready.
"They haven't made any noises about coming back or walking away from it, so we aren't sure where it's all at."
Mr Reed said in a normal year, and if other abattoirs were working in normal fashion, the closure probably wouldn't have worried him as much,
However, with labour shortages and other issues, they hadn't returned to pre-COVID operating levels.
"I had confidence Minerva would be here for a while," he said.
"They weren't paying any less than the other abattoirs last year or this year when they shutdown."
News of Shark Lake's indefinite shutdown came just 14 months after the mothballed plant was revived, with the promise of reducing freight costs boosting the Esperance economy and potentially processing 1500-head per day.
It is the third time the troubled plant has closed since 2017, when former owners Shark Lake Food Group went into administration.
For Mr Reed the biggest problem is, if some notice had been given, he could already be on lists at the likes of Fletchers International, WA Meat Marketing Co-operative, or V&V Walsh.
While he did have the feed to hold onto sheep a little longer, there was the risk of crossbred lambs going backwards.
"We want to turn those crossbred lambs off," Mr Reed said.
"We are in a position now where we have to leave the Merino lambs on their mothers, when both would be better apart.
"At the moment we have no room to separate them and I think that would probably be the situation on a lot of farms."
Mr Reed added, "it would've been really nice if they just mopped up the work they had considered to do".
"But at the same time I'm not panicking about it," he said.
"What has happened very recently is that a lot of sheep from the northern Wheatbelt are no longer killable and are outside of specs because of the really dry conditions out there.
"While I do feel for them and it is really unfortunate, it does open up some possibilities for people in our situation."
Heading into peak season, Mr Reed said it was also fortunate that producers in Esperance finished their lambs earlier than other areas.
As such, he said it might be more difficult to turn-off sheep once producers from the South West region entered the market.
"Those lambs tend to reach weight a little later than ours," Mr Reed said.
"We have a milder winter down here and have more feed in those months than they do."
Scaddan sheep farmer David Vandenberghe said he also had not heard from Minerva since the abattoir's closure.
He had 340-head booked in to be killed at the time, and labelled the announcement, which was made during spring flush, as a fair kick in the guts.
"As far as the sheep that were booked in, I think the majority of the old-season lambs have been taken care of," Mr Vandenberghe said.
"I think they have been taken to other meat processing plants.
"The agents are working pretty hard to make sure they top each truck up with old season lambs.
"So they might do away with a hundred here and a hundred there sort of thing."
Esperance Shire president Ian Mickel remained confident the Shark Lake abattoir would reopen once the necessary work had been completed.
While no clear confirmation had been received, he said it sounded quite positive that Minerva would go through the process of assessing work that needed to be done.
"They will certainly make a decision then and I think, from the information I have received they most probably will reopen - at least I am hopeful they will," Mr Mickel said.
"There's a big demand for killing space across WA and there's also the issue of transport costs, and the impact on livestock, which have to be transported to the west coast to be killed.
"We are really looking forward to a decent abattoir working here and if Minerva follow through with what they have suggested, they will upgrade the plant and open the facility again.
"It would be a great positive if they could and while there are no guarantees at the present time, we can only hope we receive more information moving forward."
Farm Weekly contacted Minerva Foods which said there was no update on the situation.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.