Animal Identification

Animal Identification

Animal Identification

All animals leaving a property (PIC) must be identified with an NLIS accredited device before moving, unless a permit is obtained from the state or territory authority.  

If you are moving an animal off its property of birth, tag the animal with an NLIS accredited breeder device. Once an animal has been tagged, the tag should remain with the animal for life, but if it stops working/falls out and the animal is no longer on its property of birth, tag the animal with an NLIS accredited post-breeder device to maintain traceability for the animal.

It is an offence to remove an NLIS tag from an animal and apply another tag, unless the animal's original tag is not working or has fallen out.

Tagging requirements for cattle

NLIS accredited devices for cattle must be an electronic (RFID) device. This can be either a single ear tag, or a rumen bolus/visual ear tag combination.

All cattle must be tagged with an NLIS accredited device before being moved off a PIC.

For more information about NLIS accredited cattle devices, see our Accredited Devices List for Cattle and the FAQ What is an (electronic) RFID? What is a (visual) NLISID?

Tagging requirements for sheep and goats

Sheep and goats can only be identified by ear tags/devices and must be tagged with an NLIS-accredited tag or device before being moved off a PIC.  

In all states except Victoria, NLIS accredited devices for sheep and goats can be either an electronic (RFID) device or a visual (NLISID) tag. In Victoria, all lambs or kids born since 1 January 2017 must be fitted with individual RFID tags before they leave their PIC of birth.

Some tagging exemptions are in place for rangeland goats harvested from the wild and dairy goats in some states and territories. Check with your state/territory NLIS authority for more information.

Post-breeder devices may be applied to sheep or goats when moving mobs that include non-vendor bred animals. Refer to your movement documentation (e.g. NVD) for details.

For more information about NLIS accredited sheep and goat devices, see our Accredited Devices List for Sheep and Goats and the FAQ What is an (electronic) RFID? What is a (visual) NLISID?

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Access state and territory information for: obtaining a PIC, ordering NLIS devices, clarifying livestock movement and NLIS compliance requirements.

Variation between states and territories requires producers to be aware of what applies in their situation, especially when moving livestock across borders.

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If you receive an animal without a tag, you should apply a post-breeder tag to the animal.

Post-breeder tags for cattle are orange, and post-breeder tags for sheep and goats are pink.

The animal will no longer have ‘life-time traceability’.  However, if you know the number of the tag that was lost, it can be linked to the replacement ‘post-breeder’ tag in the NLIS database.  Please refer to the Replaced tags transaction (RFID tags) Tech Tip.  Linking the lost tag to the replacement tag will retain the animal’s ‘lifetime traceability’

If the animal is electronically tagged, try to read the animal's device electronically using a wand (or employ an agent to do so). You may also be able to put the animal into a crush if there is one available.

Alternatively, the previous owner of the animal may have a record of the animal’s tag number. If you can at least obtain the unique last five digits of the animal’s tag number and have the previous owner’s PIC, the NLIS Helpdesk may be able to help you work out the animal's full tag number using this information.

Please note it is not possible to record a movement of electronically tagged livestock without an RFID or NLISID number.

An electronic Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) has both an NLISID and an RFID number. Both of these numbers can be used to individually identify animals on your property. When you buy NLIS devices for your PIC, the device manufacturer registers the NLISID and RFID numbers on the Database, so when you use the Database, you can enter either the NLISID or the RFID associated with a specific animal.

An NLISID number is printed on the outside of an electronic ear tag, or on a visual ear tag indicating a rumen bolus was applied (cattle only). An NLISID number can only be read visually (e.g. when you look at the number on the device on a tagged animal). The first eight characters of an NLISID are the PIC the device was issued to.

An RFID number is assigned to the electronic RFID chip inside a device. An RFID number can only be read electronically (e.g. when you scan animals with a reader).


Livestock should be tagged so that the tag is applied in the middle of the animal's ear, in accordance with the tag manufacturer's instructions.

A correctly applied cattle tag should be applied to the animal's right ear, as shown below: 


A correctly applied sheep tag should usually be applied to the animal's left ear, as shown below. Please refer to your state/territory NLIS authority for specific requirements. 


For information regarding the tagging of EU cattle, please contact EUCAS on 1800 305 544 (Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm) for more information.

No, you do not need to notify the NLIS when you tag an animal on your property.

Please note that the NLISdatabase does not distinguish between tags that you have applied to your animals and tags that are still unused.

All devices are automatically registered to your PIC by the relevant tag manufacturer when they are issued.

To improve retention of NLIS electronic ear tags in the future, NLIS Ltd [MA1] has decided that the sole purpose of NLIS devices should be to carry required NLIS information. Therefore, NLIS Ltd has decided to phase out combination ear tags which carry both NLIS and management information, also known as “2 in 1” tags or “flag” tags.

NLIS Ltd has undertaken a process to amend the “NLIS (Cattle) Standard for RFID Devices” to disallow combined NLIS and management tags. From 15 November 2013 all NLIS-accredited cattle tags are for NLIS purposes only.

Manufacturers have been cooperating with NLIS Ltd to remove this style of tag from sale in Australia. From 15 November 2013, this style of tag can no longer be supplied as an NLIS accredited device.

“2 in 1” style tags purchased before 15 November 2013 that carry the NLIS logo are still able to be used for NLIS.  Producers who have already purchased this style of tag can continue to use the tags until their supply is exhausted.  Also, there is no requirement to retag cattle that already have a “2 in 1” style tag.