Owning, keeping and moving cattle

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) for cattle, known as the NLIS (Cattle), is Australia’s system for identifying and tracking cattle, buffalo and bison for disease control, food safety and market access purposes.

NLIS (Cattle) Standards

The NLIS (Cattle) Standards 2022 provide further information about keeping and trading cattle in Victoria.


Property Identification Codes (PICs)

How to register a property where cattle are kept

All cattle owners and keepers regardless of the intended use of the cattle are required to have a Property Identification Code (PIC) identifying the property where cattle are kept.

A Victorian PIC starts with the number 3 followed by four letters and three numbers, for example 3ABCD123.

PICs are issued by Agriculture Victoria free of charge.

For more information about PICs see property identification codes.

Apply for or amend a PIC online

You can apply for or amend a Property Identification Code (PIC) online.

Apply for or amend a PIC online

Other ways to apply for a PIC

Fill out the form below and email or post it to us.

Contact the PIC Helpline on 1800 678 779 to have a form sent to you or to cancel your PIC.

White cattle tags NLIS (Cattle) tags

Ensure all cattle moving off your property are tagged.

All cattle, regardless of age, must be identified with an electronic NLIS (Cattle) tag before being dispatched from a Victorian property.

There are two types of NLIS (Cattle) tags available:

  • Breeder tags
  • Post-breeder tags.

Orange cattle tagsNLIS (Cattle) breeder tags are white and are used to permanently identify cattle before they leave their property of birth.

NLIS (Cattle) post-breeder tags are orange and are used to permanently identify introduced cattle, not already identified, or that have lost their original tag.

It is very important that the correct NLIS tag is used, if not it will falsely indicate the breeding and life history of an animal.

Tagging requirements

  • NLIS Breeder and Post-breeder tags must be attached to an animal’s right (offside) ear.
  • Only one electronic NLIS (Cattle) tag must be present on an animal at any time
  • NLIS (Cattle) tags purchased for use on one property must not be applied to cattle located on another property, unless the parcel of land is linked to the PIC. Visit pic.agriculture.vic.gov.au to amend your PIC details.
  • NLIS (Cattle) tags must not be used to identify any other livestock species (such as sheep, goats, alpacas and pigs).
  • NLIS (Cattle) tags must not be removed – unless the device is damaged and cannot be read electronically.

Order National Livestock Identification (NLIS) Tags from Agriculture Victoria

Call our NLIS helpline on 1800 678 779 between 9am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday, submit a paper application form or order online.

Order early as delivery delays may be experienced by Australia Post due to COVID-19. Parcel tracking information will be emailed to you once your order is manufactured.

Order NLIS tags online

You can also download an application form, print, complete and return to Agriculture Victoria.

For more information about NLIS tags and livestock and identification, see livestock identification page.

How to tag your cattle

Cattle tagging animation, description

Drawing of a cattle head with an ear tag applicator to it’s right and a circle representing and ear tag.

The applicator is used to attach the circular ear tag to the cattle’s right ear.  The words “right ear” appear above the ear.

The cattle has the ear tag in the middle of its right ear.

Split screen showing correct position for a tag on the left hand screen and incorrect position for a tag on the right hand screen.  The incorrect position is when the tag is on the tip of the ar.

Split screen showing correct tag on the left hand screen and incorrect on the right hand screen.  The incorrect position is when the tag is at the bottom of the ear.

Split screen showing correct tag on the left hand screen and incorrect on the right hand screen.  The incorrect position is when the tag is at the top of the ear.

Zooms out to full head with the writing NLIS (Cattle) accredited tag, with a tick.  Below is smaller writing is Follow manufacturers instructions and use correct applicators when applying NLIS accredited tags.

Zooms in on tag to show ‘3ABCD123XBU12345’ printed on it.  The 3ABCD123 is in bold.  The words Correct property identification code appear on the screen with a tick. Below is smaller writing is Follow manufacturers instructions and use correct applicators when applying NLIS accredited tags.

The cattle head is centred and the words appear Order tags at tags.agriculture.vic.gov.au.

Apply NLIS (Cattle) tags according to the manufacturer's instruction with the manufacturer’s recommended applicator.

If an incorrect applicator is used, tags may fall out and the transponder in the tag may be damaged.

Diagram of incorrectly tagging the cattle.

The correct position of the tage on the cattle.

Applying tags correctly first time avoids the cost and inconvenience of re-tagging.

Cattle being sent to the knackery - Cattle, including bobby calves and adult cattle that have died and are to be collected by a knackery must be identified with an NLIS (Cattle) tag.

Pet calves and cattle - animals being given away or sold as pets must be identified with an NLIS (Cattle) tag.

Unsafe cattle - Producers who are unable to safely tag their cattle must obtain a permit prior to dispatching cattle without NLIS identification.

Please call the Agriculture Victoria NLIS Helpline on 1800 678 779 between 9am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday, for information on obtaining a permit.

Recording movements of cattle between properties

When cattle are moved between properties with different PICs, the person receiving the cattle is required to register the movement on the NLIS database.

This includes:

  • private sales of cattle
  • movements of pet cattle
  • cattle being agisted or lent
  • cattle traded through online selling platforms such as AuctionsPlus and Gumtree.

The NLIS database movement record must be completed:

  • within two days of the cattle arriving at the new property, or
  • before the animals leave the property if within two days.

A third party may be engaged to scan tags and report movements to the NLIS database; however, the buyer/receiver is still required to ensure the transfer is completed on their behalf.

When cattle are bought, sold or moved through a saleyard, scale, public auction conducted on farm or sold directly to an abattoir or knackery, it is the responsibility of the person operating that business to notify the database.

The NLIS database - is the location where information on the movement of cattle, sheep and goats throughout Australia is stored.

To open an NLIS database account, visit www.nlis.com.au For assistance and further information about the operation of the NLIS database, call the NLIS database helpline on 1800 654 743 during business hours.

For more information see property to property movements of livestock.

Cattle on agistment

Tagging - All cattle must have an appropriate NLIS (Cattle) tag before being moved to an agistment property.

PICs – There are two options when setting up a PIC for an agistment property.

Option 1

If the land on which the livestock are agisted is in the same locality (in the same shire or in a neighbouring shire) as your PIC then both blocks of land can be covered by the same PIC.

To add or remove parcels of land on your PIC, go to the PIC system.

If an agistment block is added to your ‘home’ PIC, there is no requirement to complete an NLIS database livestock movement or generate paperwork for cattle movements between these properties.

Option 2

If the agistment property is not within the same or neighbouring shire as your PIC or you want to keep your own PIC and the agistment PIC separate, you can either apply for two PICs or ask for access to the property owners PIC if they have one.

If the agistment property operates under a different PIC, the movement of the cattle must be recorded on the NLIS database within two days and paperwork must be generated for each movement of cattle to and from the agistment property.

Movement documentation

A movement document such as a Livestock Production Assurance National Vendor Declaration (LPA NVD) or similar document must be completed before cattle are moved to a:

  • property with a different PIC
  • saleyard
  • scale
  • abattoir
  • given away or sold as pets.

This applies to all cattle owners, keepers and managers, regardless of the numbers of the livestock moved.

The movement document must be provided to the receiver or new owner by no later than the time the animals arrive at their destination.

Movement documents are not required for:

  • dead livestock being sent for processing in a knackery
  • livestock being consigned to an agricultural show or exhibition (provided the livestock will be returned to the exhibitor's property immediately after the event).

Livestock Production Assurance National Vendor Declaration

Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) is industry’s on-farm market assurance program. Producers seeking information about LPA and procedures for accessing LPA NVDs should visit the Integrity Systems website or phone the LPA helpline on 1800 683 111 during business hours.

Non-LPA movement documentation

People who are not part of the LPA program can complete a generic Cattle Consignment Declaration.

Some buyers might require as a condition of purchase that vendors supply a correctly completed current edition LPA NVD form. This document is not one of these.

Check with the person receiving your cattle whether they will accept this document.

For more information see National vendor declarations.

Lifetime traceable livestock

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) provides a life history of cattle, sheep and goats that are identified with accredited NLIS tags or devices.

An animal is deemed lifetime traceable if every property of residence in its life has been registered on the NLIS database. Any movements that are not recorded on the NLIS database result in a gap in the history of the animal and results in the loss of lifetime traceability.

Lifetime traceability is important for biosecurity, disease and residue purposes and helps to protect the Australian livestock industry.

NLIS cattle – background

Victoria led the development and introduction of the NLIS (Cattle) in the late 1990s to address weaknesses in the tail tag-based identification system in place at the time.

Cattle act as vectors in the spread of infectious diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), anthrax and other diseases that have potentially significant market access and human health impacts.  It is essential that cattle of interest are able to be located quickly and accurately in order to manage the spread of a disease and to address food safety related emergencies, for example those associated with chemical contamination.

NLIS (Cattle) ear tags contain a transponder encoded with a unique unalterable number that is able to be read in a fraction of a second by a wand or panel tag reader.

NLIS (Cattle) tags are registered before dispatch by a manufacturer to a producer on the NLIS database managed on behalf of the livestock industry and jurisdictions by Integrity Systems Company.  The NLIS database receives, processes, stores and facilitates the prompt retrieval of information relating to cattle, sheep and goat movements between properties.

For information on the operation of the NLIS database visit www.integritysystems.com.au/nlis

Further information

Agriculture Victoria NLIS Helpline operates between 9 am and 4.30 pm on business days. Call 1800 678 779 or email nlis.victoria@agriculture.vic.gov.au for further information.

Page last updated: 06 Mar 2024