Make The Best of Our National Livestock Identification System

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) protects Australia’s clean, green reputation and gives exporters a competitive edge in the global market. But whether you are a small producer or a big one – it is compulsory.


Every animal within the sheep, goat or cattle industries must be tagged with an NLIS accredited tag or identification device. It is an offence to remove an existing identifier.

As an animal is bought, sold or moved along the supply chain the change in location is recorded centrally on the NLIS database. The NLIS uses this information to track livestock movements from birth through to the consumer, giving it a life history of where an animal has been and what other livestock it may have come into contact with.

Any device or PIC status that indicates an animal may be a biosecurity or health risk are subjected to tests at slaughter to maintain the safety, quality and integrity of Australian red meat and livestock. It also enables the impact of a livestock disease epidemic to be minimised.


  • Australia exports two thirds of its beef and veal.
  • Australia is free from most agricultural pests and diseases giving us a ‘clean’ reputation and trade advantage
  • An animal disease epidemic or chemical residue incident could cripple the industry and collapse export markets.


The need to know where an animal has been and what other animals it has been in contact with became an increasing focus for the markets following outbreaks such as “Mad Cow Disease” (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE) in the UK in 2001, the Cotton Trash crisis in Australia and New Zealand in 1995-1996 where drought-fed cattle were contaminated with the Helix chemical and incidents of elevated levels of hormonal growth promoters.

In response, many countries with import livestock products imposed strict regulations to protect the quality of the food their citizens were consuming. Australia exports around 70 per cent of its livestock and is renowned around the world for the high quality of its products. An accurate tracking database helps to assure the overseas markets of the integrity of Australian meat and dairy products.

It was first introduced for cattle in 1999 but expanded to include sheep and goats in 2009. It is also used for pigs. Around 33 million sheep are now individually traced, from birth to slaughter, on the NLIS.


The NLIS is mandatory so why not make the most of it and use the technology to maximise your returns. Apart from the obvious advantages of enhancing market value with a quality guarantee or being able to alert the register of stolen livestock there is a range of technology available to integrate NLIS into on-farm management of your livestock.

More knowledge means better management.

NLIS advantages for the producer include:

  • Saved time
  • Better feed distribution
  • Earlier poor-performer culls
  • Increased herd quality
  • Better ability to reach target market specifications
  • Higher prices due to better market specifications
  • Lost or stolen stock identification

For more information on what you need to do to become NLIS compliant click here.

Links for more information:

National Livestock Identification System website

NLIS Frequently Asked Questions

NLIS Database Helpdesk

Contact the NLIS on or 1800 654 743.

This information has been adapted from

Buy NLIS Tags