Why an updated NLIS matters to producers

Why an updated NLIS matters to producers

04 June 2024
-Min Read

For the past quarter century, the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database has played a critical role in Australia’s red meat industry – underpinning lifetime traceability and global market access.

To ensure it can continue to meet industry needs for decades to come, the NLIS Database Uplift Project is underway to build an updated and adaptable platform which will be able to respond to the ever-growing needs of livestock producers and remain fit-for-purpose well into the future.

One producer has taken a leading role in helping to make the updated NLIS more adaptable, useful and flexible. As an active member of the NLIS Database Uplift Technical Reference Committee (TRC), Sarah Donovan represents the needs of beef producers in discussions about the future vision for the NLIS.

“Primarily, my role on the TRC involves ensuring that updates to the NLIS database not only comply with legislative requirements but also cater to the daily operational needs of managing a livestock business,” she said.

It’s a position Sarah’s well-qualified to hold as the owner of ‘Donovan Cattle Company’. Her Central Queensland breeding and backgrounding enterprise encompasses 9,400ha with a commercial Droughtmaster herd, including 800 breeders.

“As a producer, I mainly use the NLIS database to ensure I’m complying with my responsibilities to track cattle movements in line with Australia’s biosecurity regulations. This means recording my livestock transfers on the NLIS within the mandated timeframes, checking device statuses and conducting stock reconciliations,” she said.

Always looking for opportunities to improve on-farm efficiencies and streamline processes through the improved integration of technologies, Sarah has embraced tools such as remote water monitoring systems, solar-powered pumping systems and in-paddock weighing systems.

With her understanding of the benefits that technology can deliver to on-farm performance, Sarah was keen to play a role in helping develop the updated NLIS.

“I got involved because I really believe that enhancing the database’s functionality will deliver industry-wide value. Serving on the TRC allows me (along with other producers) to directly influence decision-making and help ensure we have a system that can rise to the everyday challenges and opportunities facing our producers and other industry stakeholders,” Sarah said.

“For example, the current user interface can be quite cumbersome and if the ability to integrate the NLIS with other farm management systems could be improved, that would help streamline and simplify operations for many producers,” she said.

Delivering more

Sarah acknowledges that the NLIS database plays a vital role in disease management but, as a member of the TRC, Sarah has been advocating for updates to the NLIS that would go beyond this.

“My hope is that the enhanced NLIS will evolve into a more comprehensive system that not only strengthens our biosecurity measures significantly but also supports and benefits the entire supply chain,” she said.

Improved integration and data accessibility

While the NLIS currently focuses on compliance, Sarah would eventually like to see it enhanced to integrate more easily with the tools used daily across the industry.

"Improving integration and information accessibility would help producers streamline operations, improve transparency, and ultimately enhance the quality across the entire chain,” she said.

“All of this is going to have a profoundly positive impact on producers across Australia.”

Improved efficiency

Sarah believes there is a significant opportunity to enhance the system to enable greater efficiency and help alleviate some of the pressures placed on producers and others along the value chain.

“By streamlining or automating the many time-consuming processes within the existing platform, we could help reduce the administrative burden on producers, freeing them up to focus on things like strategic growth and innovation and other ways they could improve efficiency,” she said.

“Given the current labor shortages, producers will welcome anything that frees up additional resources.”

A more comprehensive resource for producers

In Sarah’s view, the NLIS Database Uplift Project will help transform the current system into a more comprehensive resource for producers.

“The enhanced NLIS is going to bring significant benefits to the entire industry. By improving the accuracy and timeliness of livestock tracking and health data, it will help strengthen national biosecurity by enabling quicker responses to disease outbreaks,” she said.

“Improving our ability to share data across the industry will allow stakeholders to make more informed decisions – potentially boosting productivity and sustainability, enhancing the sector’s competitiveness and resilience, and better preparing it for future challenges and market demands.”

“Ultimately, I believe future enhancements to the NLIS could help boost operational efficiencies across the beef supply chain, while continuing to maintain the stringent biosecurity standards that have protected both our livestock and livelihoods for the past 25 years.”

NLIS Database Uplift Project

The NLIS is Australia’s system for the identification and traceability of cattle, sheep and goats. It reflects Australia’s commitment to biosecurity and food safety and provides our red meat industry with a competitive advantage in global markets.

The NLIS Database Uplift Project will ensure Australia has a user-friendly traceability platform that is fit-for-purpose with the flexibility and scalability to track all livestock movements for many decades to come.

The project is supported by a $22.5 million grant from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the Australian Government’s ‘Bolstering Australia’s biosecurity system’ package.

Delivery of the updated, easy to use and future-proofed NLIS platform is expected by 30 June 2026.

For more information about the project, visit the ISC website or subscribe to receive regular updates.