A NSW Government website

NLIS: Sheep and goats - Basic information

NLIS (Sheep & Goats) is Australia's system for identifying and tracing sheep, lambs and goats. It is a mob-based system that links animals with the properties on which they have run.

The National Livestock Identification System enhances Australia's ability to maintain access to key export markets and will help to quickly contain a major food safety or disease incident. It is implemented by industry in partnership with governments across Australia.

NLIS (Sheep & Goats) was introduced on 1 January 2006. It uses visually readable ear tags printed with a Property Identification Code (PIC) to identify individual sheep and goats as part of a mob-based system. Traceability is provided by the combination of tags, movement documents and the recording of all movements of sheep and goats in the NLIS database.

The key to achieving high levels of traceability is the prompt recording of all movements of sheep and goats in the NLIS database by saleyard, abattoir and knackery operators, agents and producers.

The NLIS in NSW is supported by the Biosecurity (NLIS) Regulation 2017.

What do I need to do for NLIS Sheep & Goats?

The NSW requirements are summarised below.

  • Have a property identification code (PIC) for the property on which you keep livestock. Contact your Local Land Services if you don't have one.
  • Tag all sheep and goats born on that property with an NLIS breeder tag for sheep and goats before they are sent to a saleyard, abattoir or to another property.
  • Untagged animals that were not born on that property should be tagged with an NLIS pink post-breeder tag printed with that property’s PIC before they are moved.
  • Also use a pink post-breeder tag:
    • to replace missing tags on sheep and goats no longer on their property of birth
    • if you choose not to record on your NLIS movement document, e.g. NVD, all other PICs printed on the tags on sheep or goats being moved
  • Use an appropriate movement document, usually a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) or Transported Stock Statement (TSS), when sending sheep or goats to a saleyard, abattoir or another property.
  • Both the consignor and the purchaser/receiver of the stock must keep their copy of this document for seven years.
  • A post sale summary (PSS) may be used in conjunction with a TSS for movements from a saleyard to a property or an abattoir.
  • A National Sheep or Goat Health Statement is required for movements of sheep and goats into NSW, and may be required by some purchasers, but is not an approved movement document for NLIS purposes.
  • Once an NLIS sheep/goat tag is attached, it must not be removed until the animal is processed in an abattoir or knackery.
  • Emergency tags are available through Local Land Services but only in special circumstances.

Producers reselling sheep and goats which they have bought previously can:

  • Record on their NVD or TSS all the PICs printed on the NLIS tags attached to animals in the consignment or recorded on the movement document which came with them; or
  • Identify each animal with an NLIS pink post-breeder tag printed with their PIC
    The retention for 7 years of NLIS movement documents by vendors and purchasers of sheep and goats assists with traceability.

Important: Only attach tags to sheep and goats that are printed with the PIC of the property on which they will be tagged. Do not use these tags to identify sheep and goats on a property with a different PIC.

What NLIS movement documents can I use?

Movement documents can be an NVD, a TSS or a Post Sale summary (issued by saleyards that summarises information on the NVD). The document must include the following information:

  • Name and address of consignor or vendor of the sheep/goat
  • the PIC(s) on the tag(s) attached to the sheep or goat(s)
  • the number and type of stock
  • whether the sheep or goats were vendor bred
  • how long they have been held if not vendor bred
  • the PIC of the property where the stock was last held
  • the PIC or address of the property, saleyard or abattoir to which the stock are being sent
  • the date that the movement started

Information about Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) NVDs, eDECs and other licensed eNVDs is available from the LPA website , by ringing the LPA helpline on 1800 683 111 or by emailing: lpa@mla.com.au

What ear tags are needed for NLIS (Sheep & Goats)?

NLIS (Sheep & Goats) breeder tags must be used to identify sheep and goats before they leave their property of birth. It is recommended that year of birth colour tags are used (see table below).

NLIS (Sheep & Goats) post-breeder tags are pink and can be used to identify sheep and goats no longer on their property of birth or those which have lost their breeder tag.

All NLIS (Sheep & Goats) tags can be attached to either the right or left ear as long as the tags don't obscure any earmark.

What about the year of birth colour system for ear tags?

It is strongly recommended that you use the national 'year of birth' colour system for breeder tags. The NLIS tag colours for lambs born in a particular year are listed below.

Year of birth colour tags

Table 1. Sheep breeder tags - year of birth colour tags

Do saleyards and abattoirs record movements of sheep and goats in the NLIS database?

Yes. Saleyards record mob-based movements of sheep and goats to the saleyard PIC and to their post-sale destination, including to abattoirs and properties, by close of business on sale day for slaughter sheep or by COB the day after the sale for all other sheep.

Abattoirs record movements of sheep and goat mobs to the abattoir PIC in the NLIS database and also record them as deceased in the NLIS database within 2 days of their slaughter.

How do I record mob-based movements to my property in the NLIS database?

All mob-based movements of sheep and goats between properties (P2P movements) must be recorded in the NLIS database by recording the information contained in the NLIS movement document. This is done by the owner or receiver of the stock at the property to which the stock has moved and must be recorded within 2 days.

A property could be a small or large farm, a feedlot, a goat depot, a showground or campdraft venue, for example. Note that a mob can be as few as one animal.

To open an NLIS account go to the NLIS database webpage and click on ‘Register’ and choose your account type as ‘Producer’ .

If you are unable to record the movement of sheep and goats onto your property, your stock and station agent or Local Land Services should be able to help you.

Remember: in NSW sheep and goats do not have to be scanned individually. All you need to know to record the movement in the NLIS database is the PIC the animals are from, the PIC you are moving the animals to, the date, the number of head and the NVD or TSS serial number.

Are there any exemptions from tagging? 

All sheep and farmed goats must be tagged before they leave their property of birth.

However, feral goats are exempt from tagging if they move directly from their property of capture to slaughter, or via one goat depot to an abattoir for slaughter. This exemption does not apply to goats sold at a saleyard, or feral goats moved to another property from a goat depot. See the ‘NLIS Industry Standards for Operating a Goat Depot and User Manual’ for goat depots on the Goat Industry Council of Australia website.

Dairy goats and earless goats are exempt from tagging for movements between properties (P2P movement) until suitable alternative identification methods are found. Dairy and earless goats going to a saleyard or to an abattoir must still be tagged.

Occasionally some animals may be moved without tags in special circumstances, such as from properties without suitable facilities for tagging or in an emergency such as a flood or fire. Contact Local Land Services for advice in these circumstances.

How do I order tags?

Order tags from your preferred rural merchandiser or directly from a tag manufacturer.

A list of NLIS accredited tags and their suppliers is available on the NLIS website. Tags must be printed with the PIC of the property on which they are used. Other information may be printed on the other side of NLIS tags.

Can I use electronic devices?

You can use individual NLIS accredited electronic tags for sheep and goats; they must ordered for the PIC on which the tags will be attached. You must not use NLIS Cattle tags on sheep.

Where can I get more information?