NLIS Cattle: Questions and answers

Past transaction identification schemes have been effective over many decades for the control and eradication of certain endemic diseases and for managing some residue incidents.

But better identification and tracing systems are now needed to provide whole-of-life traceability to maintain consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of meat and to underpin domestic and international trade in livestock and livestock products.

This is especially important in the face of increasing global concern about BSE (‘mad cow disease’), where whole-of-life traceability is essential for locating all cattle related to a BSE case.

Permanent identification will benefit the livestock industries by:

  • improving livestock traceability to reduce the impact of livestock disease and residue incidents;
  • making access to overseas markets more secure;
  • maintaining consumer confidence in Australian beef and dairy products;
  • offering producers improved herd management options; and
  • providing better proof of ownership to reduce stock theft.

Further information on NLIS from the NSW DPI website or:

Yes, participation is mandatory for all cattle owners.

All cattle, irrespective of age, have to be identified with an NLIS device before they leave any property.

Saleyards are required to notify the NLIS database of all cattle being sold. Abattoirs are required to notify the database of all cattle slaughtered.

From 1 January 2006, all movements of cattle between properties must be notified to the NLIS database.

All cattle being moved from their property have to be identified with an NLIS device. This includes cattle being moved for sale, show, slaughter, agistment or to a different property for any reason.

Cattle which stay on their property of birth don’t have to be identified, unless you want to for management purposes or to help with the recovery of cattle if they are stolen. When cattle finally leave the farm they have to be NLIS-identified, that is, before they are sent to a saleyard, abattoir or another property.

If you can demonstrate you have placed an order for identifiers you may contact your Local Land Services to arrange for special identifiers.

You must identify cattle before they are moved from any property. The movement must be recorded on the NLIS database unless the properties have the same PIC.

From 1 July 2005, all stock from interstate must be identified with an NLIS device before entering NSW.

No. Do not remove an existing NLIS identifier. The NLIS database is designed to record changes in residence of cattle during their lifetime against their NLIS identifier number.
It is an offence to remove an existing NLIS identifier.

Approval can be obtained from a Stock Inspector to replace non-functioning devices.

Yes, you need to NLIS identify your cattle. The devices must have the PIC for the land on which the cattle were grazing at the time they are identified.

You will need to obtain NLIS devices from the owner of the land, or obtain their permission to order devices with their PIC. In the case of cattle on a Local Land Services travelling stock reserve (TSR), the Local Land Services may issue NLIS identifiers. Special (emergency) NLIS devices may be made available in certain circumstances.

Currently there are a number of approved NLIS device manufacturers. NLIS identifiers must meet national standards. Identifiers can be ordered through your rural merchant. Local Land Services may provide advice on local suppliers.

At present the cost of NLIS ear devices is around $3.00 each + GST + a handling fee. The rumen bolus is a little dearer. As the price varies, please contact your merchandiser for current retail prices.

Yes. Device manufacturers sell applicators, which must be used correctly if the device is to be attached securely and without damage.

Cattle being sold direct to slaughter will have to be NLIS-identified, even if they are going straight to another state, as the law requires cattle to be identified when they are leaving their property.

Yes. There are two types and colours:

  • White breeder devices are used on cattle born on that property.
  • Orange post-breeder devices are used on unidentified cattle brought from another property.

Both types are available as either ear devices or rumen boluses.

You don’t have to do anything. If the device can be recovered, it would be good practice to notify the NLIS database, when convenient, of that animal’s death, but this is voluntary. The device cannot be re-used on another animal.

Cattle deaths which occur at a saleyard or abattoir, or while in transit to or between those premises, must be reported to the database.

The animals may be sold provided they have a special (emergency) device attached at the saleyard.

Special (emergency) identifiers may be available from your Local Land Services. To make arrangements contact your district Local Land Services before movement or sale.

Recycling of NLIS devices requires NSW DPI approval.

Some processors are reluctant to handle rumen boluses.

A PIC is a unique eight-character number assigned by Local Land Services to properties with livestock.

Contact your local Local Land Services region, or check your most recent Local Land Services rates notice (formerly RLPB rates notice).

Most properties that are rated by a Local Land Services - formerly RLPB - already have a PIC, or can readily obtain one by contacting their Local Land Services.

If you lease land or run cattle on agistment, ask the land owner for their PIC or contact Local Land Services. If the property doesn’t already have a PIC, then as the occupier you are entitled to apply for one.

You will need a PIC if you want to join the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) scheme and use the NVD Waybill. Find out more information about LPA on the MLA website.

If you have a small farm and don’t have to pay Local Land Services rates, and you sell more than a few cattle each year, then a PIC is worthwhile having. You can apply for a PIC from Local Land Services. A fee is payable for a PIC.

If you only occasionally move or sell cattle, you might be able to buy a ‘special’ NLIS device from your Local Land Services or stock agent and ask them to record your cattle movements on the NLIS database. Fees will be payable, and you should weigh up the best option for you.

A ‘property’ is defined as one or more parcels of land in proximity that are worked as a single property. Normally each separate holding (as determined and rated by Local Land Services) has its own PIC.

If you have properties with different PICs, you may be able to combine them (if they are not too far apart) and avoid the need to identify cattle and record movements between the properties.

You will still need a transported stock statement when moving stock by vehicle between your properties even if they have the same PIC.

A potential disadvantage of combining properties is that if a diseased or residue-affected animal is traced to your PIC, then all land under that PIC and all cattle on that land will be considered at risk until further investigations prove otherwise.

Please discuss this option and the pros and cons with your Local Land Services.

The PIC has eight characters:

  • The first letter is ‘N’ for New South Wales
  • The second letter is a check digit that allows computers to automatically confirm that the PIC is valid and has been correctly entered
  • The next two numbers are for the Local Land Services (formerly LHPA) district
  • The final four numbers make up your property number

The saleyard or agent is required to notify the database of cattle sold through a saleyard. If cattle are slaughtered at an abattoir, the abattoir must notify the database.

If cattle are moved directly between properties, the owner or person in charge of the cattle at the destination property must notify the database.

This is optional; you don’t have to have a reader.

From 1 January 2006, it will be mandatory for the national NLIS database to be notified within 7 days after cattle are brought on to a property. It is advisable if cattle are consigned direct from property to abattoir, that all movements are recorded prior to transportation. Where cattle are bought through a saleyard, the saleyard will do this.
If you:

  • buy cattle privately;
  • move cattle between your own properties (with different PICs); or
  • move or receive cattle on agistment;

then the purchaser or owner/manager will have to notify the database of the movement, or arrange for someone else to do it for you.

This can be done by visually reading and reporting the NLIS number printed on each ear device, or by keeping a list of NLIS or microchip (RFID) numbers for each mob of cattle. Purchasing a reader may make this easier, and will provide other benefits for your herd record keeping and management.

NLIS Ltd operates the NLIS Helpdesk from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday (AEST). The NLIS Helpdesk can be contacted by phone on 1800 654 743 (Option 1), fax (02) 9463 9136 or via email at

An approved NLIS device has two numbers :
RFID* number - an electronic number within the microchip. This electronic number includes a code for the manufacturer and a unique number for that device.
*RFID = radio frequency identification device

NLIS number - a visual number printed on the ear device or, for a rumen bolus, on the matching management tag. The first eight characters of the visual number are your PIC, followed by codes for the manufacturer, the device type, and the year of manufacture. The last five numbers are a unique serial number for each device.

These two numbers are unique for each device and are linked on the NLIS database. Find out more information about NLIS on the MLA website.