A NSW Government website

NLIS Cattle: Questions and answers

Below you will find a selection of frequently asked questions about moving and selling cattle in NSW.

Why does Australia have the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)?

Australia needs effective identification and tracing systems to provide whole-of-life traceability to maintain consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of meat, and to underpin Australia’s domestic and international trade in livestock and livestock products.

This is especially important in the case of an exotic disease outbreak, such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), where effective tracing of livestock can reduce the impact of such a disease, or in a food safety or chemical residue incident.

The NLIS is underpinned by legislation in each state or territory. In NSW this is the Biosecurity (NLIS) Regulation 2017.

Permanent identification of livestock benefits livestock industries by:

  • improving livestock traceability to reduce the impact of livestock disease and residue incidents
  • ensuring ongoing access to valuable overseas markets
  • 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 the NLIS is available from NSW Department of Primary Industries, and enquiries can be sent to enquiries.nlis@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Do my cattle need to be on the NLIS database?

Yes, participation in the NLIS is mandatory for all cattle producers and participants of the red meat supply chain.

You'll find a full overview of your responsibilities to identify your livestock on the NLIS Cattle page.

What are the rules for moving and selling cows?

All cattle must be permanently identified with an NLIS device before they leave their property of birth or any other property. Once attached the NLIS device must not be removed, i.e. it stays with the cattle for its lifetime.

All movements of cattle between other properties with different PICs must be recorded in the NLIS database by the owner of or the person receiving the cattle at the next property.

Saleyard operators are required to record all cattle moved to the sale yard in the NLIS database and the destination of all cattle sold or moved unsold from their saleyard.

Abattoir operators are required to notify the database of all cattle slaughtered at their abattoir.

For more information, download our factsheet on identification and stock movements (PDF, 231.2 KB).

Do I have to identify all my cattle?

Yes. All cattle being moved from a property must be identified with an NLIS device. This includes cattle being moved for sale, show, slaughter, agistment or to a different property for any reason. Once identified the device remains attached to the cattle for its life.

Cattle which stay on their property of birth for their lifetime don’t have to be identified with an NLIS device, unless required for management purposes, or to help with the mitigation of possible straying or theft of stock.

What is an NLIS movement document (such as an NVD or TSS)?

Cattle being moved to sale or to slaughter must be accompanied by a National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (NVD). Information on obtaining an NVD is available from Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) or phone 1800 683 111, or email lpa@mla.com.au

NVDs are available in the form of an NVD booklet, or electronic NVD (eNVD) (you can find these on the LPA website).

For cattle moving between properties a Transported Stock Statement (TSS) may be used instead of an NVD as long as the ‘From’ PIC and the address or the ‘To’ PIC of the destination of the cattle is recorded in addition to other details on the form. This document provides traceability information to allow the recording of the cattle movement on the NLIS database.

Other approved NLIS movement documents include an Local Land Services (LLS) stock permit, or a permit (PDF, 1058.29 KB) granted under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

For more information, download our factsheet on identification and stock movements.

I have ordered my NLIS devices and they have not arrived. Can I move cattle or sell?

Not until they are identified. If you can demonstrate you have placed an order for NLIS devices to identify your cattle you should contact your Local Land Services (LLS) to arrange for special (emergency) identifiers to be attached to the cattle before they leave the property.

Do I need to put NLIS devices on my livestock when moving them between my two properties, and do I have to inform the database of their movements?

Yes if the property has a different PIC. An NVD or TSS must accompany the cattle and the movement must be recorded in the NLIS database unless the properties have the same PIC.

What if I buy cattle from interstate?

Cattle moving from interstate must be identified with an NLIS device before entering NSW and their arrival on your property recorded in the NLIS database. All other jurisdictions have the same NLIS requirements for cattle as NSW.

More information about this can be found on the NLIS Cattle page.

If I buy in cattle and the stock already have an NLIS device, should I remove that identifier and replace with my own identifier?

No. Do not ever remove an existing NLIS device. In fact, it is an offence under the Biosecurity (NLIS) Regulation 2017 to remove an NLIS device from cattle unless it is done on the approval of an authorised officer (authorised under the Biosecurity Act 2015).

Note: it is the seller responsibility to ensure all livestock have an NLIS device before they are sold.

Once the movement of the cattle to your property has been recorded on the NLIS database, it will show that your property is the current residence of the cattle. Ensuring that all cattle movements during their lifetime are recorded in the NLIS database means those animals have lifetime traceability (LT).

While it is an offence to remove an existing NLIS device from cattle, approval can be obtained from an LLS authorised officer to remove a non-functioning or damaged device and replace it with a functioning device.

I do not own any land, but I lease/rent property or run my cattle on agistment. Do I need to identify my cattle?

Yes. Your cattle must be identified with an NLIS device and the device must contain the PIC for the land on which the cattle were born, even if this is the leased or agistment property.

For cattle born on leased or agistment properties, NLIS devices should be obtained from the owner of the property. Otherwise you should obtain the property owner’s permission to order devices printed with the agistment PIC. The property owner should also supply an NVD book printed with the PIC of the agistment property for use when stock move off the agistment property to sale or slaughter, or to another property.

In the case of cattle on a LLS travelling stock reserve (TSR), the LLS office will be able to issue NLIS identifiers for the TSR PIC. Special (emergency) NLIS devices may be supplied in certain circumstances.

A factsheet on moving cattle between agistments has can be downloaded from the DPI website.

Where do I buy NLIS devices?

The NLIS device manufacturers who sell accredited NLIS identifiers are listed on the NLIS website. These devices meet the NLIS Standard for Radio-Frequency Identification Devices (RFID). Devices can be ordered through your rural merchandiser or directly from a tag manufacturer.

How much will it cost me to buy NLIS devices?

The cost of NLIS ear devices varies between manufacturers. Historically prices have been around $3 per tag plus GST and slightly more expensive for rumen boluses.

Do I need a special tool for attaching the NLIS device into the cattle’s ear?

Yes. Device manufacturers sell applicators, which must be used correctly if the device is to be attached securely and without damage to the ‘right’ (or offside) ear of all cattle.

More information on how to attach tags can be found in our 8 step guide to moving and selling cattle.

What happens if I sell direct to slaughter?

Cattle being sold direct to slaughter must be identified with an NLIS device. Remember, all cattle must be identified before they leave their property of birth or any other property.

Are there different types of identifiers?

Yes. There are two types of NLIS permanent identifiers (devices) for cattle:

  • White breeder devices are attached to cattle while still on their property of birth
  • Orange post-breeder devices are attached to cattle bought from another property which have lost or damaged their device, or to any other unidentified cattle

Both breeder and post breeder devices are available as ear tags or rumen bolus/ear tag combination.

More information on tags and types how to attach tags can be found in our 8 step guide to moving and selling cattle.

What happens if a beast with an NLIS device dies?

If the device can be recovered, it would be good practice to record the device number or scan the device and notify the NLIS database 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 recorded in the NLIS database by the saleyard or abattoir operator.

What happens if an animal loses a device, or the device gets damaged and stops working on the way to the saleyard?

The animal may be still be sold provided a special (or emergency) device is attached at the saleyard and the device is related to the PIC of consignment (the PIC on the NVD).

What happens if I have to move or sell my animals in an emergency before I have a chance to identify them?

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

However, in an emergency such as a flood or fire the cattle may be moved without being identified with an NLIS device, provided they are promptly identified at the property to which they were moved, unless they are returned directly to the previous property from which they were moved. If moved to a saleyard, abattoir or any other property from the property of refuge, the cattle must be identified.

Can identifiers be recycled?

No. Recycling of NLIS devices for use in other livestock is not allowed. NLIS devices must be destroyed in such a manner after cattle are slaughtered so they cannot be reused.

Can processors handle rumen boluses?

Some processors are reluctant to retrieve and dispose of rumen boluses from slaughtered cattle.

What is a Property Identification Code (PIC)?

A PIC is a unique eight-character number assigned to properties by LLS.

A property must have a PIC if on that property there are:

  • one or more cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, bison, buffalo, horses and other equines, deer, camelids such as alpacas, or
  • 10 or more large poultry (emus and/or ostriches), or
  • 100 or more small poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigeons, quail etc),

held in captivity.

The owner/occupier of the property on which stock are held in captivity, and the owner or person in charge of the stock held on the property, must each ensure that the property has a PIC.

How do I find out what my PIC is?

Contact your nearest LLS office, or check your most recent LLS ‘Land and Stock Return’ notice.

Do I need a PIC?

Yes. Most properties that are rated by Local Land Services (LLS) already have a PIC. If you need to apply for a PIC contact your LLS office.

If you lease land or have cattle on agistment on another property, ask the property owner for the PIC details for that property or contact LLS. If the property doesn’t already have a PIC, then as the lessee or agistee you must negotiate with the owner of the property to apply for a PIC, or obtain his/her permission to apply for a PIC and be the PIC manager for that property.

You will need a PIC if you want to join the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) scheme and use an LPA NVD and Waybill when selling your cattle.

I have more than one property. Can I amalgamate my properties under one PIC?

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

If you have properties with different PICs, you may be able to amalgamate them under one PIC (if the properties are close by and are worked as a single property) and avoid the need to record movements of cattle between the properties in the NLIS database.

When PICs of proximate properties are amalgamated the PIC of the primary holding remains active and the PICs of the other holdings are made inactive.

However cattle must still be identified with NLIS devices, and you will need a TSS or NVD when moving stock by vehicle between your properties, even if they have the same PIC.

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

Please discuss the pros and cons of PIC amalgamation with your LLS office.

What does the PIC number mean?

A PIC has eight characters:

  • The first letter is ‘N’ for New South Wales
  • The second character is a check letter that allows computers to automatically confirm that the PIC is valid and has been correctly entered
  • The next two numbers are for the former Rural Lands Protection Board district (within the LLS region)
  • The final four numbers make up the individual property number

Who is responsible for notifying the database of movements?

The saleyard operator or agent (if operating the saleyard) is required to upload to the NLIS database the details of cattle sold at a saleyard or other public auction by COB on the day of the sale for cattle sent to slaughter, and within 2 working days for other cattle.

When cattle are slaughtered at an abattoir, the abattoir must record in the NLIS database the details of each cattle slaughtered within 2 working days.

If cattle are moved directly between properties, the owner of the cattle at the destination property must record the movement in the NLIS database within 2 days.

For more information, download our factsheet on identification and stock movements.

Do I need a reader?

It is optional for producers to have a reader or wand to scan and read the NLIS devices attached to their cattle.

However it is mandatory for the NLIS database to be notified within 2 days after cattle are moved onto a property and cattle must be scanned and their device details recorded for this to occur. If you don’t have your own scanner you may be able to borrow one from your agent.
If you:

  • buy cattle privately
  • buy cattle through an on-line facility such as Auctions Plus
  • move cattle between your own properties (with different PICs)

then, as the owner/receiver of the cattle, you must notify the database of the movement, or arrange for someone else to do it for you.

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

How do I obtain an NLIS database account?

To apply for an NLIS account, go to the NLIS website at www.nlis.com.au and click on ‘Register’ and choose your account type, e.g. Producer.

NLIS Ltd operates the NLIS Helpdesk from 9am-5pm 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 support@nlis.com.au.

What does the NLIS number mean?

  • An approved NLIS cattle device has two numbers:
    RFID* number – a 16 digit 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 16 digit 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 the PIC (the property for which the device was originally ordered and on which it was originally attached), 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. For more information about NLIS, go the NLIS database at https://nlis.com.au/

Further information