NLIS: Sheep and goats - Questions and answers

Summary of key requirements

A summary of the key requirements of the system is available in NLIS Sheep and Goats - basic information.

Key points about mob-based movements of sheep and goats

From 1 July 2010 all property-to-property movements of sheep and goats need to be recorded on the NLIS database. Recording of mob-based movements to saleyards, abattoirs, goat depots and feedlots has already been taking place.

See below for more detailed information about property-to-property movements.

Here are answers to some of the questions that sheep and goat producers and others in the industry may have about the National Livestock Identification System Sheep & Goats.

About the system

NLIS Sheep & goats is a tracing system that allows stock to be traced from their property of birth through all subsequent properties or to the place of slaughter. This traceability is achieved through a combination of ear tags, a paper trail based on an approved movement document such as the National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (NVD) or Transported Stock Statement (TSS), and information about mob-based movements of sheep and goats on the NLIS database.

The system has been developed in consultation with producers, processors, stock and station agents, saleyard operators and state regulators in response to a number of international animal health and food safety events.

NLIS for sheep has been compulsory from 1 January 2006. NLIS Sheep & Goats is an initiative of national industry. The Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC) agreed in 2003 that a national livestock identification system would be put in place for each livestock species and that it would meet agreed standards for traceability.

The Stock Diseases Regulation 2009 (made under the Stock Diseases Act 1923) is the legislative basis for the NLIS in NSW.

Consumers worldwide are demanding greater traceability of the production of their food. To achieve this traceability there needs to be a nationwide system that allows individual animals to be traced to all properties that they have been to and to their original property of birth.

In the event of a serious exotic disease, such as foot and mouth, entering Australia it would be imperative to find infected animals and deal with them as soon as possible so as to minimise the huge financial losses that would be suffered through the cessation of trade. Accurate and rapid traceability is important to achieve this. Sheepmeat exports from Australia are worth a significant amount,  $1.455 billion in 2009. If these were stopped because of an exotic disease outbreak, the consequences would be even greater than this. The oversupply on the domestic market could drastically reduce the price received locally, perhaps doubling the loss.

NLIS Sheep & Goats is delivering the following key benefits to Australia's sheep and goat meat industries.

  • assist in maintaining market access by demonstrating that Australia’s sheep and goat industries are able to meet the traceback requirements of our domestic and international customers
  • build on our competitive position as one of the world’s leading exporters of sheep and goat meat
  • strengthen product integrity though the enhancement of product traceback systems to increase consumer confidence in the ability of the meat industry to identify and manage disease and chemical residue events should they occur
  • assist other industry initiatives such as genetic improvement and supply chain management schemes by providing a standard method for identification of stock
  • improve proof of ownership for lost or stolen stock

The current NSW requirements are summarised below;

  • have a property identification code (PIC). The first step for producers to become involved is to ensure that they have a property identification code (PIC) for their property. This number is assigned by Local Land Services. If you run cattle and already have a PIC (tail tag number), then you must use the same number
  • order tags. Producers need to decide what type of tag they will use, either visual or electronic tags. Producers can order NLIS Sheep & Goats tags from authorised resellers or manufacturers and some Local Land Services. The tag must have the PIC clearly printed on it. Tags that meet the national standards for NLIS also have the NLIS logo stamped on them. It is strongly recommended that tags be ordered with the correct year of birth colour (see below)
  • tag all sheep and goats sold or moved from one property to another property, saleyard or abattoir after 1 January 2009
  • use an appropriate movement document (NVD, TSS or post sale summary) when sending sheep or goats to a saleyard, abattoir or another property
  • record your PIC, the PIC numbers of any other tags in the stock and other details as required on an approved movement document
  • keep the movement documents for 7 years for any sheep or farmed goats bought onto your property after 1 January 2006
  • record mob-based movements of sheep or goats on the NLIS database

The approximate cost of NLIS Sheep & goats approved visually readable ear tags is between $0.25 and $0.35.

For those producers who elect to use electronic tags, the approximate cost is $2.30 to $2.60. These tags must have a visually readable PIC number printed on the tag.

NLIS database accounts are free of charge.


NLIS Sheep & Goats was introduced in NSW from 1 January 2006.

From 1 January 2009 all sheep and farmed goats leaving the farm require NLIS Sheep & Goats tags.

From 1 July 2010 all movements of sheep and goats between properties with different PICS must be recorded on the NLIS database.

Sheep or farmed goats can be traced back to their property of birth by checking the PIC number on their tag against relevant movement documents and information provided to the NLIS database.

NSW Department of Primary Industries has the role of implementing the system in NSW after it has been developed in consultation with industry. For more information contact your Local Land Services or an NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officer.

Your local Local Land Services has the roles of:

  • certifying your property identification code and other details on orders for tags;
  • providing emergency tags for stock which have lost tags or otherwise need to be tagged;
  • checking that the requirements of NLIS Sheep & Goats are met in saleyards.

You will find the contact details of your local Local Land Services on their website or in the White Pages.

Initially, the main focus of NLIS Sheep & Goats is to provide a standardised identification system for the Australian sheep and goat industries. The cost of an exotic disease outbreak in the Australian sheep and goat meat industries would be devastating.

Tagging your stock ensures you maintain maximum competition when you market your stock.

On-farm benefits include:

  • the ability to identify stock easily if they stray or get boxed with a neighbour's
  • unique individual stock identification for management purposes, if an individual identification number is added when ordering tags

It is unlikely that sheep or farmed goats will be worth more once they have an NLIS tag in them. The key advantage is that your sheep or farmed goats will not be excluded from any potential markets and buyers.

It is likely that some major export markets will require full traceability for the meat products that enter their market within the next few years.

These livestock do not need to be tagged for NLIS Sheep & Goats, but movement documents are still required:

  • feral goats consigned direct from property of birth to slaughter or via a depot. A feral goat is one which has been captured from a wild state, has not been born as a result of a managed breeding program, and has not been subjected to any animal husbandry procedure or treatment.
  • lambs or kids that are both unweaned and unmarked and moved or sold with their mothers.
  • lambs or kids born in transit or at a saleyard if sold with their mothers. (If separated a special NLIS tag must be attached.)
  • lambs or kids born on agistment and moved on permit to the home property (see also Question 11 below).
  • sheep or goats moved on permit to allow them to be tagged somewhere else.
  • sheep or goats moved for up to 7 days to a property that shares a fenceline with the home property (a 'contiguous' property).
  • sheep or goats moved between parts of the same property (that is, with the same PIC).
  • sheep or goats moved on permit during an emergency such as a flood or bushfire.
  • dairy goats.

Note: Dairy goats that are moved to a saleyard for sale or to an abattoir for slaughter must be tagged.

All lambs born after 1 January 2006 while on agistment must be tagged with an NLIS tag for the agistment property before being moved home or anywhere else, except where it is not practical to tag the sheep or goats on the agistment property, or the lambs and kids are too young to tag and the animals are moved on permit.

Even though you own the stock, you cannot use your 'home' property tags on another property, because the PIC on the tag relates to location, not stock ownership.

Yes. All sheep and goats must be identified with an approved identifier (NLIS tag) before the stock leave the property on which they are kept.

Using PICs

PIC stands for property identification code. It is a unique eight-character number assigned by the Local Land Services (formerly LHPA, formerly RLPB) to a property with livestock.

The same PIC is used for both NLIS Cattle and NLIS Sheep & Goats. If you run cattle, your PIC is the same as your tail tag number, and if you already have a tail tag number, you don't have to apply for a PIC.

The PIC relates to land, not stock owners, and is the key piece of information allowing traceback to property of birth and all properties in between.

An example of a PIC is NG474162 where:

  • N = NSW
  • G is a check character
  • 47 = Local Land Services (formerly LHPA, formerly RLPB) district
  • 4162 is the property number

No, they are intended for different purposes.

If you have properties with different PICs you may be able to tag all your animals with the same PIC if the properties are close to each other. Contact your Local Land Services to see if you can do this.

You will still need a transported stock statement or stock permit 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 stock 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.

Using movement documents

After 1 January 2006 all sheep and goats have to be accompanied by an approved document that records their movement from their current location to another location, whether they are exempt from tagging or not.

Approved documents include the National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (NVD), transported stock statement (TSS), or post-sale summary which contains the following information:

  • PIC or address of the property or location that the sheep or farmed goats are being moved from
  • PIC or address of the destination
  • number and type of sheep or farmed goats in the consignment
  • PICs of all ear tags in the sheep or farmed goats
  • date of the movement

A copy of this document must be kept by the purchaser/receiver of the sheep or farmed goats for 7 years if a producer, or 2 years if a processor. Agents must keep a record of the specified information on a movement document for 2 years.

NLIS Sheep & Goats relies on the combination of the use of tags, paper-based records and information on the NLIS database to achieve traceability. Industry has determined that retaining the movement documents for 7 years will ensure that the records are available to allow whole-of-life tracing, should this be required.

A transported stock statement is a stock movement document which provides all the necessary information to satisfy regulations regarding stock ownership in transit, the carrier and the destination of the stock. It is available from your local Local Land Services office.

A Health Statement is a document that provides the purchaser with information regarding animal health assurance, in particular for OJD. It is available from your local Local Land Services office. An animal health statement is not an NLIS approved movement document

A National Vendor Declaration and Waybill is a document that provides all the required information to satisfy the regulations for the sale or movement of sheep or farmed goats and provides the purchaser with general information regarding animal health and residue risk of the stock being sold. It can be used as a TSS.

The NVD is a compulsory element of the LPA (Livestock Production Assurance) scheme. The LPA NVD is available from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

A 'movement' is defined as any movement between two properties with different PICs or between a property and a saleyard or abattoir or feedlot.

Yes, all movements require a movement document such as an NVD or a TSS.

When you send sheep on agistment the owner or person in charge of the stock at the agistment property is responsible for ensuring the movement is recorded on the NLIS database. The stock owner and the agistee must agree who is in charge of the sheep and therefore who will do the upload.

When your sheep return from agistment to the property they came from, it is your responsibility to enter the movement on the database.

If stock moving from agistment don't go back to their original property, the person receiving the stock, i.e. the abattoir, saleyard operator or new owner is responsible for entering this movement on the database.

When you send sheep to a show it is also the responsibility of the owner or person in charge of the stock to check that the movement has been recorded on the database, even though show societies are being asked to upload movements for their exhibitors.

When your sheep return from a show to the property they came from, it is your responsibility to enter the movement on the database.

Yes. This may be an NVD, a TSS, or a post sale summary. The important thing is that the document has the following information recorded:

  • the PIC of the property the animals moved from
  • the date that the movement started
  • the number and type of animals
  • the PICs of all tags in the animals

Accept the sheep or farmed goats if you wish and request a completed version. Advise your Local Land Services if corrective action is not taken by the previous owner.

Yes, processors are required to keep the movement document for two years after receiving the stock.

Selling livestock under NLIS Sheep and Goats

Stock will continue to be sold in the same way as they were before the introduction of NLIS Sheep & Goats, but you will be required to provide correctly identified sheep for sale by way of NLIS ear tags and movement documentation. Movement documentation needs to be filled out completely, correctly and legibly. All animals in the mob need to be tagged.

Yes. All lambs and farmed kids consigned to an off-farm feedlot need to be tagged. Any that lose a tag in the feedlot will need to have a pink post-breeder tag with the feedlot's PIC attached before they leave the feedlot.

Ear tags for NLIS Sheet and Goats

There are two categories of tags needed for NLIS Sheep & Goats:

  • the breeder tag is the original tag that is placed in the sheep or farmed goats on their property of birth
  • a post-breeder tag can be used for sheep, lambs or farmed goats no longer on their property of birth or for sheep or for lambs or farmed goats consigned to a saleyard which have lost a breeder tag

All post-breeder tags are pink. Post-breeder tags may be used to identify stock you have bought that are already tagged with an NLIS tag to allow easier identification of bought-in sheep or farmed goats, particularly when they may have come from various sources.

NLIS tags will not replace ear marks. Ear marks are the only permanent marking on sheep and as such are an invaluable back-up method of identifying animals in the event that an ear tag is lost between the previous property and the destination, whether that be the saleyards, an abattoir or another property.

Yes, it is a legal requirement for sheep and goats to be earmarked before 6 months of age.

All sheep and goats must be identified with an approved NLIS tag which must conform to the national standards specified by the NLIS Standards Committee of SAFEMEAT.

There are two different types of tags that can be used in NLIS Sheep & Goats: visual or electronic.

  • visually readable tags;
    • visually readable tags are the ones required by NLIS. They have printed on them the property's PIC and the NLIS logo
  • electronic tags;
    • You can use electronic tags under NLIS Sheep & Goats, but it is not compulsory.(Electronic tags are compulsory for NLIS Cattle.)
      Electronic tags must have the PIC printed on them so that they can also be read visually

Electronic tags allow for more intensive animal management. Individual animal data can be recorded and stored for each animal, allowing producers to move towards breeding objectives with greater confidence.

Yes. The PIC number should be printed so that it can be easily read when the animal is handled. Other information relating to the property, stud  or management can be printed on the tag, but on a different side.

Order tags from your preferred tag supplier, tag manufacturer or Local Land Services.

All orders for approved NLIS identifiers in NSW must be checked and endorsed by the relevant Local Land Services district Registrar before they are filled by a device manufacturer. This ensures that:

  • the correct PIC for the property is being ordered
  • the person placing the order is entitled to do so, being either the owner or occupier of the property or a person with stock on that land
  • any evident irregularities in the order are sorted out; and
  • the quantity of devices being ordered matches the carrying capacity of the land or premises

Manufacturers and suppliers of stock identifiers do not have to be approved in NSW, but must supply identifiers that meet approved standards. Tags must be printed with the PIC of the property on which they are used. You can put other information on the other side of NLIS tags. Tags carrying the NLIS logo meet quality standards.

The NLIS accredited ear tag manufacturers include:

NLIS breeder tags may be any colour, but use of a colour which corresponds to a nationally agreed colour for the year in which the lamb or kid is born is strongly recommended. This allows for visual age identification at a distance. The colours are rotated through an eight-year cycle:

2005 Yellow
2006 Red
2007 Sky blue
2008 Black
2009 White
2010 Orange
2011 Light green
2012 Purple
2013 Yellow

This is not recommended. Buyers of your stock may prefer correct year of birth colour. You should use the year of birth colour where the age of the animal is known.

There are currently two different types of tag systems in the marketplace. NLIS Cattle is using the half duplex system, whereas some of the sheep or farmed goats tags being produced are full duplex.

Most commercial readers have the ability to read both half and full duplex tags. If you have cattle as well as sheep or farmed goats, you should ensure that the reader you buy has the ability to read both half and full duplex tags.

Not unless they lose a tag, in which case you would use a post-breeder tag with your PIC.

If sheep or farmed goats that are required to be tagged lose their NLIS tag, the tags must be replaced before the stock leave that property. If you have bred the stock on that property, you may attach a breeder tag. All other sheep or farmed goats must have a post-breeder tag attached.

If you elect not to record on a movement document all the different PIC numbers in the ears of the stock being moved you must apply a pink post-breeder tag.

Yes, if it assists your management, but it is not required. This is also an option if you do not wish to record all PICs relating to the sheep or farmed goats on the NVD when they leave your property.

No, but you are already required to use tags with a PIC and a V printed on them to signify that the sheep have been vaccinated against OJD. There is no requirement to put in additional tags.

Yes, sometimes it will happen, but if shearers are warned that the sheep are tagged they will take appropriate care. As with other tags lost on-farm, you should replace the lost tags at the next appropriate animal husbandry event with a breeder tag if the sheep was bred on your property, or a post-breeder tag if the sheep were bought in or you are unsure of their origin. To aid in tag retention, it could be useful to place tags in the back of the right ear and front of the left.

Your preference. The ear in which tags should be placed is optional, as long as the tag does not obscure the registered earmark. To aid in tag retention, it could be useful to place tags in the back of the right ear and the front of the left ear.

The only requirement is that the lambs, sheep, kids or goats are tagged prior to leaving the property. To tag lambs or kids at marking or weaning is often the most efficient time tag animals.

Most stock will only have one tag but some may have more.

Yes, pink emergency tags will be available through your Local Land Services. They will mainly be used by small holdings, if the property does not have a PIC.
Emergency tags can also be used if tags are lost in transit. These tags cost more than breeder tags.

If you are consigning sheep or farmed goats to sale to a location where they are required to be tagged, then all must be tagged before they leave your property. Those that have lost tags should have a new tag inserted. If there is no doubt that the animals have been born on the property, a replacement breeder tag can be used, but otherwise a post-breeder tag should be used.

Moving stock between states

Property-to-property movements

Property-to-property movements include movements between properties with different PICs as part of normal management or for agistment, or after being sold; to and from shows; along TSRs or roads; or for any other purpose, even if the stock remain in the same ownership.

For producers, this involves:

  1. Registering on the NLIS database – this can be done online at MLA
  2. Entering the movement on the database if animals are received from another property as a result of a private sale, are on agistment, as part of a show or field day, or when moving animals on a travelling stock route
  3. Checking to make sure that animals away on agistment or purchased from a saleyard or public auction have been uploaded onto the database

The movement of animals needs to be recorded within 7 days of the movement taking place.

If you purchase animals from a public auction, then it is the responsibility of the person conducting the auction to ensure that the movement of animals to and from the sale are recorded on the database.