Frequently Asked Questions

NLIS Cattle: Frequently Asked Questions for Improving Herd Management
The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is designed to protect and grow Australia’s reputation as a producer of quality beef by providing lifetime traceability for every animal.

At the same time, NLIS also gives livestock producers other advantages. NLIS can be used by producers seeking to collect onfarm performance and management data, to boost productivity and efficiency in their enterprise.

What are the benefits of using NLIS as an on-farm management tool?
• Easy recording in the yard or paddock,
• improves accuracy and saves on double handling information, and
• you can make decisions based on accurate data.

Using individual animal identification (NLIS tags) and the right software (NLIS scanners, weigh scales and farm software programs), producers
can work with the NLIS database to create accurate records that help make on-farm decisions.

How is NLIS used to identify and manage stock?
• Ear or rumen devices used for NLIS cattle can become your on-farm identification system.
• Using panel or hand held readers, producers can track weights and performance of stock without additional paperwork and calculations.

All cattle are uniquely identified with an NLIS approved device, an ear device or rumen bolus/ear tag combination. Each ear device is printed on the outside with a unique NLIS number and internally contains a microchip with an electronic radio frequency number. This number can be used for on-farm record keeping and stock identification purposes.

Producers can attach NLIS devices to cattle they breed at any time before they leave their property of birth. The most convenient time to attach an NLIS device on-farm is at calf marking or weaning. Producers who identify their calves correctly at a young age get the benefit of the NLIS device as an on-farm management tool until the cattle are sold.

Can NLIS be used to monitor herd progress?
• Yes, use NLIS in conjunction with panel or hand held readers to record weights, and integrate it with pedigree, health treatments,pregnancy testing results and pasture performance.

The unique number on the NLIS device can be linked to a computer-based or manual record-keeping system. Use the information to monitorherd progress against fertility, disease and growth targets and to set up automated drafting systems for target weights or preferential feeding.

Can NLIS provide labour efficiencies and quality assurance in your stock yards?
• Yes, use hand held or panel readers to save time and improve accuracy of record keeping for both compliance and management of livestock.

NLIS information can be linked to stockyard equipment such as weigh scales and automatic drafting gates, providing labour efficiencies and quality assurance through eliminating errors in recording. Animals can be drafted by NLIS identification, live weight, age, sex, breed, sire, treatments, or any combination of these.

When information is recorded during yard operations, or even in the paddock, the data can be transferred for herd recording and used to complete farm records. This may have flow on benefits to other compliance requirements, such as Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) and
quality assurance schemes, as it allows them to be completed quickly and correctly.

Can NLIS provide carcase feedback?
Producers can access the NLIS database via a ‘Producer account’ to obtain carcase feedback on cattle slaughtered in NSW. In fact, carcase feedback is a major benefit of adopting NLIS as a management tool for producers using this information for on-farm decisions.
This may help cattle producers supply livestock that better meet customer specifications.
Previously, carcase feedback may have been difficult to obtain or limited to whole cattle lot reports. NLIS offers producers the ability to identify individual animals to carcase feedback through the carcase report.
Carcase feedback information is available to the original breeder of cattle and consignor. Processors may provide different levels of information to clients and this can be discussed with your processor.

How can I use NLIS to its full potential for livestock management?
NLIS offers the ability to monitor individual animal performance data from on-farm, through the production chain to carcase feedback.

Using NLIS at this level may require co-operation with processors and others in the beef supply chain. It can assist by maintaining a common identification for the animals through the NLIS device. Various electronic systems are being implemented on farms, at saleyards, feedlots and abattoirs that can identify the animal by its NLIS device and record transactions or production data. This can help producers
fine-tune their management for improved compliance with customer specifications, which can ultimately increase returns.

In order to use NLIS to its full potential, an NLIS management system can be developed. This involves a three-step approach:
1. identifying cattle with an NLIS device,
2. selecting and using appropriate equipment, and
3. interacting with the NLIS database.

A variety of commercial products, such as NLIS scanners, weigh scales and farm software programs provide the tools for electronically recording animal performance information as part of an NLIS management system.
A NLIS management system has both economic and management benefits, including gains from more timely sales, improved animal weight gains through better pastures, better feed rationing, and the ability to market your beef armed with things such as greater weight or yield knowledge.
Management benefits include time savings through faster animal handling in yards or improved knowledge of genetic traits, which can assist when making breeding decisions.

If I use NLIS as a management tool, do I still need to record stock movements?
• Yes, all movements from a PIC to another PIC, need to be recorded to the NLIS database, go to to register all movements.
The primary function of NLIS is the identification and tracing of livestock. For cattle it is a permanent whole-of-life identification systemthat enables individual animals to be tracked from property of birth right through to slaughter for food safety, product integrity and market access purposes. It is mandatory for cattle producers to report all stock movements to the NLIS database.

Want further information?
For further information on the benefits of NLIS or creating an NLIS management system, visit

  • Information on this page has been sourced from NSW DPI documents**

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