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, marking 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 is printed with a unique number called the NLIS number. Serial numbers on NLIS tags can be used for on-farm record keeping and stock identification purposes and 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 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. The NLIS tag can then act as a back up if the management tag is lost.

Accurate identification and storage of individual animal performance

Hand-held readers

NLIS tags contain microchips 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 readers are available from $800.

Panel readers with a read distance of over 1 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. 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 weight gain over time you 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 you 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.

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 animals that are under current withholding periods for antibiotic use (such as herd synchronisation, monitoring for artificial insemination or embryo transfer). It is really only limited by your own needs and use of the technology. There is a wide range of software packages available to assist with data collection, analysis and the generating of reports.

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 deters livestock thieves.

If an NLIS identified animal is lost, you are able to report this to the NLIS Database who will assign a 'lost status' to the cattle.

If you believe that NLIS identified cattle have been stolen, you should report the incident to the police, including relevant NLIS tag numbers. If a copy of your 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'.

Checking for stolen status at an abattoir

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 and territory authorities will be notified.

Scanning cattle on your property

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 that you purchased.

Knowing the weight of animals consigned to an abattoir and checking carcase feedback also enables you to check that you are getting paid for your cattle.

Carcase feedback

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

More information

Specific NLIS database queries:

For queries on the NLIS in Victoria:

Visit the National Livestock Identification System section for more information on how to use the NLIS database.

Page last updated: 22 Jan 2021