NLIS on-farm benefits
The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is Australia's system for identifying and tracking beef and dairy cattle.
The NLIS is protecting and enhancing Victoria's reputation as a supplier of safe wholesome beef and dairy products and providing producers and processors with a competitive advantage in key domestic and export markets.
The NLIS provides opportunities for beef producers to improve the management and profitability of their herd.
1. Carcase Feedback
Carcase feedback is one of the major benefits of adopting NLIS. NLIS offers producers the ability to link individual animals to carcase feedback through the NLIS database.
NLIS carcase feedback is available from the NLIS database via the Internet to producers who have:
- Bred and sold store cattle that were NLIS identified
- Sold NLIS identified cattle direct to a Victorian processor
- Sold NLIS identified prime or cull cattle at a saleyard that were subsequently slaughtered in a Victorian abattoir
Carcase feedback when provided by a processor to a producer can be used to modify management practices. This may help a cattle producer supply livestock that better meet the market specifications.
Victorian processors are providing to the NLIS database as a minimum the following information on the NLIS identified cattle they slaughter:
- Date of Slaughter
- NLIS Tag details
- Vendor's Property Identification Code
- Hot Standard Carcase Weight (HSCW) or weight at slaughter
Processors may also choose to include other feedback information such as chiller assessment details (eg. meat colour, fat colour, marbling), but this is not compulsory.
For more information on utilising carcase feedback and instructions on how to access carcase feedback specific to animals you have produced please see the following Information note: AG1140: "NLIS Carcase Feedback".
2. NLIS Tags for on-farm identification and management
Each NLIS tag is printed with a unique number called the NLIS number.
The following is an example of an NLIS number that might appear on an NLIS Breeder Tag issued for use on a Victorian Property – 3ABC1234XBX00318. The serial number in this instance is '00318'. Serial numbers on NLIS Tags can be used for on-farm record keeping and stock identification purposes and can be specified by the producer when ordering NLIS Tags. This gives producers the opportunity to maintain the numbering they already use for herd identification.
Beef producers have the option of placing a large management tag in the left ear of their cattle, printed with a number matching the serial number on the NLIS Tag they have used. The NLIS Tag can then act as a back up if the management tag is lost.
3. Accurate identification and storage of individual animal performance
NLIS Tags contain microchips that can be read electronically in a fraction of a second by producers who have a suitable reader. Importantly, with electronic reading, transcription errors can be eliminated.
There is a range of technology available to integrate NLIS into on-farm management of beef cattle. Hand held readers are available from $800.
Panel readers with a read distance of over one metre are more expensive, and can be used to automatically read the NLIS Tags on cattle moving along a race. Indicators capturing weight can be used to input a range of observations or can be hooked directly into a laptop with appropriate software for managing you recording needs. Data can be quickly captured and stored for future reference assisting the manager with future decisions. It is important to know what you actually need to capture rather than capturing information that is of little or no value.
The value of recording weight
Weight gain recorded over time can be used to predict when an animal will reach market specifications. This may be important information to communicate with your agent or preferred processor to assist in the marketing of your stock.
Linking individual animal performance back to dam and sire may assist with culling poor performing breeders.
By looking at weigh gain over time a manager can evaluate the need to implement management strategies if animals are not meeting target weight gains.
Sick animals not gaining weight an economic burden. Animals can be identified early and a management strategy can be implemented.
The value of animal health records
Linking any animal health data back to an individual electronic ID allows a history to build up on an individual animal. This data can become very valuable to assist managers when making strategic decisions about which animals to cull. By recording cows with bad temperament, calving issues, foot problems and other animal health issues, the worst performing animals in a herd can be accurately identified.
Export Slaughter Intervals (ESI) of veterinary chemicals can vary greatly. Some software for herd management can be programmed to alert a manager when an animal scanned is still within an ESI. Consumers demand products to be free of chemical residues. Having a treatment history linked to the animals NLIS ID could decrease the risk of selling animals within an ESI.
4. On-farm management
The diagram on the following page illustrates the various ways that software and NLIS technology can be used for on-farm management.
5. Using NLIS identification to maximise market value and access
In 1999, the European Union (EU) became the first significant market for Australia to impose a 'lifetime traceable' requirement. Consumers are demanding more information about the products they are buying. More countries are moving towards introducing a requirement that local producers permanently identify their cattle and register all movements on their respective national databases. It is likely that these countries will impose a level of traceability on imported beef equivalent to the lifetime traceability being demanded for locally produced beef.
6. Lost and stolen cattle
Once cattle are NLIS identified, a link is established between the tagged animal and the producer's property. This assists in ensuring that stray cattle are promptly returned, and deters livestock thieves.
If an NLIS identified animal is lost, the owner is able to report this to the NLIS Database who will assign a 'lost status' to the cattle.
If a producer believes that NLIS identified cattle have been stolen, they should report the incident to the police, including relevant NLIS Tag numbers. If a copy of their report to the police is provided to the department, the NLIS database administrator will be asked to allocate to the missing animals a 'stolen status'.
If a 'stolen status' animal is scanned at a Victorian abattoir, or interstate abattoir that is routinely scanning NLIS identified cattle, the message 'Stolen cattle - hold carcase' will be displayed on the abattoir computer. This is designed to alert the abattoir that the animal should not be slaughtered, or if slaughtered, that the carcase should be held and the police alerted. If a 'stolen status' animal is scanned at a saleyard, the NLIS database administrator will be alerted when the saleyard registers the transaction and the relevant State/Territory authorities will be notified.
By scanning animals once they arrive home and cross referencing the NLIS devices against devices upload to your NLIS database account by a saleyard, you can determine if you got the same cattle as you purchased. Knowing the weight of animals consigned to an abattoir and checking carcase feedback also enables a producer to check that he is getting paid for his cattle.
Specific NLIS database queries
NLIS Hotline: 1800 NLIS ID (1800 654 743)
NLIS queries in Victoria
For queries on the NLIS in Victoria, call our Helpline on 1800 678 779 during business hours.
Ordering NLIS devices online
You can now order NLIS devices online using a credit card.