Benefits of NLIS on beef farms

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) provides a competitive advantage in key domestic and export markets. The NLIS system uses an electronic ear tag or device, providing each animal with its own, individual identifying number.

By using equipment and software currently available, many aspects of herd management can be improved and simplified.

NLIS tags for on-farm identification and management

Each NLIS tag has an external and internal identifying number.  Printed externally on each tag is a unique alphanumeric identifier called the NLIS ID. The internal electronic piece has a RFID (radio frequency identification) number. The NLIS ID or RFID can be used for on-farm record keeping and stock identification purposes.

The NLIS ID animal identifier can be specified by you when ordering NLIS tags.  This gives you the opportunity to maintain the numbering you already use for herd identification. You also have the option of placing a management tag in the left ear of your cattle, printed with a number matching the number on the NLIS tag.

Accurate identification and storage of individual animal performance

Scanning cattle

NLIS tags contain microchips (RFID’s) that can be read electronically. 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 or panel readers are available for purchase. 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 your recording needs.

Data can be quickly captured and stored for future reference. It is important to evaluate what information will be beneficial to collect for your operation, rather than capturing lots of data that is of little or no value to your business.

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, feedlot, 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 weight gain over time you can evaluate the need to implement management strategies if animals are not meeting target weight gains.

Sick animals that fail to gain weight can be identified early and a management strategy implemented to reduce the economic impact and improve animal welfare.

The value of animal health records

Linking animal health data back to an individual electronic ID allows a performance and health record to build up on an individual animal. This data can become valuable to assist you when making strategic decisions about which animals to cull. By recording cows with poor temperament, calving issues, foot problems and other animal health issues, the lowest performing animals in a herd can be accurately identified.

Withholding Periods (WHP) and 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 a WHP or ESI. The law and consumers demand meat products to be safe for human consumption. Having accurate treatment records and treatment history linked to the animal’s electronic ID can reduce the risk of selling animals within a WHP or ESI.

Monitoring events

NLIS tags can be used to record animal events such as:

  • heat detection
  • treatments
  • days since calving
  • sire selection

This can result in increased production and profitability by allowing better management of an individual cow's performance through the analysis of the collected data.

It can also assist in identifying and monitoring animals during on-farm programs such as herd synchronisation, artificial insemination and embryo transfer. There is a wide range of software packages available to assist with data collection and analysis.

Lost and stolen cattle logged on the NLIS database

Once cattle are NLIS identified, a link is established between the tagged animal and your property. This assists in ensuring that stray cattle are promptly returned and it may also deter livestock thieves.

If an NLIS identified animal is lost, you can report this to Agriculture Victoria and a ‘lost status’ will be applied to the NLIS device.

If you believe NLIS identified animals have been stolen, you should report the incident to the police, including the relevant NLIS tag numbers. Provide a copy of the report to Agriculture Victoria and a ‘stolen status’ will be applied to the NLIS device(s).

Checking for stolen status at an abattoir

If a 'stolen status' animal is moved on the NLIS database, the relevant state and territory authorities will be notified.

If a 'stolen status' animal is scanned at a Victorian or interstate abattoir, 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.

Checking transfer accuracy on the NLIS database

When purchasing animals through a saleyard, scanning animals once they arrive on your property allows you to cross reference the NLIS devices against those transferred onto your property on the NLIS database by the saleyard operator. You can check they are the same cattle. If you see that the cattle do not match, you should contact the saleyard operator to correct the transfer.

Similarly, when cattle are leaving your property for an abattoir, knowing the NLIS device and weight of animals allows you to cross reference the carcase feedback and check that you are getting paid appropriately for your cattle.

Carcase feedback and traceability

Carcase feedback is one of the major benefits of adopting NLIS. NLIS offers the ability to link individual animals to carcase feedback through the NLIS database.

NLIS records with Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) underpins food safety with traceability from your farm through to the consumer.

Support and contact information

For queries about the NLIS requirements in Victoria contact Agriculture Victoria.

For queries about the NLIS database contact the Integrity Systems Company (ISC).

Page last updated: 13 Oct 2023