Animal Identification

Animal Identification

12 March 2024

Animal Identification

All animals leaving a property (PIC) must be identified with an NLIS accredited device before moving unless there is a specific exemption or 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 (white for cattle, yellow or 'year of birth colour' for sheep and goats).

Once an animal has been tagged, the tag should remain with the animal for life.  if a tag is lost and the animal is no longer on its property of birth, tag the animal with an NLIS accredited post-breeder device (orange for cattle, pink for sheep or goats). 

It is an offence to remove an NLIS tag from an animal and apply another tag.  Check with your state/territory NLIS authority for how to deal with non-functioning tags/devices in your jurisdiction.

A device compliant form is available here for cattle, sheep and goats.

Tagging requirements for cattle

Before livestock identification devices become approved for use under the NLIS, they must undergo a three-year field trial. Field trials assess suitability, retention and readability.

At first the field trial is experimental and the device cannot be sold commercially. After six months, if the device is assessed as meeting the performance standards, it may be awarded conditional approval. Conditional approval means the device can be commercially sold as conditionally approved for the remainder of the trial. Conditional approval status must be clearly marked on the packaging and marketing material.

If the device continues to perform to the standard required throughout the three-year field trial, it can be awarded full NLIS approval. If the device does not meet the requirements during the trial at any time it cannot be approved.

ISC monitors the performance of approved devices using various surveillance methods. If you wish to make a complaint regarding an NLIS approved device, please submit your compliant here or send an email with the device name, livestock it was used on, name of the supplier, date of purchase and details of the issue to for investigation. Complaints can also be lodged directly with the supplier of the devices.

For information relating to NLIS accredited pig tags, please visit the Australian Pork website and then look for the identification tab.

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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NLIS tags and obtaining a PIC

If you need to purchase NLIS tags/devices or obtain a PIC, you will need to contact your state or territory authority.

Your local authority will also be able to assist with 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.

Access state and territory contact details


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If you're receiving warning emails, having issues with the NLIS database or are having trouble logging in, check out the support information available.

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An electronic Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) has both an NLISID and an RFID number. Both 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 by looking 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 (see example below).

An RFID number is assigned to the electronic RFID chip inside a device. An RFID number can only be read electronically, when animals are scanned with a tag 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 any other specific requirements. 

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. More information on tagging requirements for cattle, sheep and goats is available on the ISC website.

You do not need to notify NLIS when you tag an animal on your property. The NLIS database does not distinguish between tags applied to your animals and tags that are still unused. All devices are automatically registered to your PIC by the tag manufacturer when they are issued to you.

It can be useful to keep your own records of what tags are used, when and in what animals. ISC recommends keeping a record of the tag numbers when purchased and to which animals they have been applied. Visual ID numbers are printed on the bag for easy recording.





For an RFID tag to obtain full NLIS accreditation, it must complete a three-year field trial on several different properties across Australia and demonstrate loss rates across all trial properties below 3.5%.

If any producer is experiencing high tag loss rates then you are urged to contact the tag manufacturer directly and notify them of the problem. If you are unhappy with the manufacturer’s response to their problem, then a complaint can be lodged with ISC and we will further investigate the matter.

Complaints can be sent to using an NLIS Cattle Device Complaint Form or by phoning the ISC Helpdesk on 1800 683 111.

You can use either visual NLIS ID numbers or electronic RFID numbers to record a livestock movement.

Livestock movements with electronic tags – or RFID tags – should be recorded using the Livestock moved onto/off my property function. Access ISC's NLIS how-to guide for moving livestock onto or off a PIC (type in details) or how-to guide to moving livestock onto or off a PIC (file upload) for assistance with this.

Livestock movements with visual tags should be recorded using the mob-based movement onto/off my property function. Access ISC's NLIS how-to guide for moving mobs onto or off a PIC (type in details) or how to guide to moving mobs onto or off a PIC (file upload) for assistance with this. 

For information regarding the tagging of EU cattle, please contact European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme on 1800 305 544 (available Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm) for more information.

For more information on pig tags for NLIS, visit and then look for the identification tab.

Electronic tags will need to be read manually or by using a scanner or a wand. If you don’t have one, you can ask to hire or borrow one from an agent.

If you’re having difficulty reading an animal’s tag number and it is electronically tagged, use a wand or employ an agent to assist. You may also be able to put the animal into a crush if there is one available to assist you in reading the tag.

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 ISC Helpdesk may be able to help you work out the animal's full tag number using this information.