Animal Health Australia (AHA) participates in the advisory committees for the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) programs to ensure national consistency in defining, developing, promoting and deploying the various species-based approaches.
NLIS (Cattle) is Australia’s system for permanently identifying and tracking all cattle through their life. It is managed by the Integrity Systems Company, a wholly owned subsidiary company of Meat & Livestock Australia.
Australia’s whole-of-life cattle identification system aims to ensure that individual animals can be traced from property of birth to slaughter to meet biosecurity, food safety, product integrity and market access requirements.
Cattle producers use NLIS-approved machine-readable, radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) to identify cattle, such as an ear tag.
Each RFID contains a microchip encoded with a unique number that is linked to the property identification code (PIC) of the animal’s property of birth.
Cattle identified with NLIS devices can be electronically scanned as they move through the livestock chain. At scanning, each owner’s PIC can be recorded and linked to the RFID. The transaction information is stored in the secure, central NLIS database.
With full transaction recording in place, we can establish a life record of an animal’s residency and the other animals it has interacted with. The intention is that this centrally stored, electronic history of an individual animal’s residency enables rapid and accurate traceability of all cattle in Australia in the event of a disease outbreak or chemical residue incident.
The NLIS database operates in conjunction with the state and territory property registers that record the details of properties assigned with PICs.
NLIS (Pigs) refers to the Australia’s Pork Supply Chain Integrity System, in which traceability is a key feature of the system. It is managed by Australian Pork Limited.
From 2018, state and territory governments began legislating for mandatory NLIS requirements for the traceability of pigs. This includes identification. All weaned pigs leaving the property need to be identified with a brand/tattoo or an NLIS approved pig tag.
The pork industry system integrates programs and systems developed by industry supply chain members and governments, and comprises four components:
- PigPass National Vendor Declaration (NVD)—pig producer declares pig husbandry practices and food safety risk management on it when moving pigs; carries property identification code and pig tattoo number to facilitate traceability.
- On-farm Quality Assurance—validates the PigPass NVD and verifies compliance with legislative requirements.
- Linkage of the PigPass NVD with abattoir systems—links the animal and the carcase; abattoir management uploads information to the NLIS (Pigs)/ PigPass database (see PigPass website for details).
- Validation tool (scientific method is currently being researched by the pork industry) – validates the pork supply chain integrity system for rapid resumption of trade in event of a food safety incident.
Pigs listed on the PigPass NVD are physically identified through the use of a slap brand (pig tattoo) that is defined and enforced by state and territory legislation.
For more information on NLIS (Pigs) and traceability visit the Australian Pork Limited website.
NLIS sheep & goats
NLIS (Sheep & Goats) is Australia’s system for permanently identifying and tracking all sheep and goats through their life. It is managed by the Integrity Systems Company, a wholly owned subsidiary company of Meat & Livestock Australia.
Introduced in 2006, the NLIS (Sheep & Goats) replaced a previous scheme for sheep, known as the National Flock Identification Scheme (NFIS).
From January 2009, all sheep and farmed goats had to be identified with an NLIS-approved ear tag prior to movement.
Recording the movement of mobs of sheep or goats between properties on the NLIS database commenced in July 2010.
The NLIS requirements are designed to improve the speed and accuracy of trace-back and trace-forward of sheep and goats.
Ear tags and movement documents
The visually readable ear tag, printed with a property identification code (PIC) and the NLIS logo, stays with the animal for life.
When NLIS ear tags are used in conjunction with a Sheep/Goat National Vendor Declaration (NVD) form or other approved movement document, the NLIS enables trace-back to property of birth or the last property of residence.
Livestock producers must complete a movement document when dispatching sheep or goats of any age to a saleyard, abattoir or another property with a different PIC, and both the vendor and the buyer must keep copies of these forms for 7 years.
Breeder tags are applied on the property of birth before sheep or goats move to another property.
Tags can be colour-coded by year of birth, in a rotating 8-year cycle, to enable visual age identification of animals at a distance. The colour for year of birth is not mandatory, but is strongly recommended.
Post-breeder property tags are applied to sheep or goats no longer on their property of birth, or to introduced animals that have lost their original tag. Post-breeder property tags are always pink.
Changes coming for NLIS (Sheep & Goats)
Australia’s state and federal governments as well as the sheep industries are working toward mandatory implementation of a national electronic identification system for sheep and goats by 1 January 2025.
To undertake this work the National Biosecurity Committee established a new government-industry Sheep and Goat Traceability Task Force (SGTTF). Information on their work is available on the Department’s website, including a National Implementation Plan.
NLIS alpacas and llamas
Animal Health Australia (AHA) is working with the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA) and other relevant industry stakeholders to develop a national identification and traceability system for alpacas and llamas in Australia.
Camelids of South American origin include alpacas, llamas, guanacos and vicuñas. Australia has an alpaca population of around 400,000 individual animals. Llamas are kept in far fewer numbers and guanacos and vicunas are not farmed in Australia.
The AAA has identified that the introduction of a national identification and traceability system is integral to the future development of their industry.
In 2019 the AAA Board recommitted to the need for a traceability system and work has since progressed on NLIS (Alpaca & Llama). Individual identification (eID RFID) ear tags are now available for alpacas and movement details may be recorded in the NLIS database. Business Rules for NLIS (A&L) were agreed by SAFEMEAT Partners in July 2023.
For more information visit the AAA website.