Thousands of workers were sent home after Australia’s largest meat processor was shut down by a cyber attack this week.

Operations at global meat giant JBS were shut down in Australia, Canada and the United States, including its network of 47 facilities with abattoirs and feedlots in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

JBS Australia chief executive Brent Eastwood says the company has had to cancel all beef and lamb kills across Australia on Monday as workers were sent home.

An estimated 8,500 head of cattle and 6,500 sheep were scheduled to be processed at JBS facilities on that day.

The company has given no details on the nature of the attack. 

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says it is important not to jump to conclusions about the source.

“There is a set process in which cyberattacks are handled and we’re working with the company impacted,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We’re hoping it won’t be long. It’s not only the workers who are impacted but the flow-on industries like truck drivers as well.

“There are established processes for reporting and investigation of cyber incidents through the Australian Cyber Security Centre.”

Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union Queensland Secretary Matt Journeaux is concerned that workers may miss out on pay.

“The meat in the sandwich is that this is a concerted effort against Australian business and the workers will suffer as a result of that,” Mr Journeaux told the ABC.

“There’s six sites in Queensland that will be affected … and around the nation there would be significantly more.

“In most processing facilities the workers are on daily hire arrangements and unfortunately if they don’t work, they don’t get paid.”

The Union’s Queensland branch says it is trying to make sure payments to workers continue.