Electronic identification for sheep and goats

Page last updated: Monday, 13 March 2023 - 10:55am

Livestock traceability

Enhancing Australia's livestock traceability systems is a national priority that the federal and state government and the livestock industries are working collaboratively on.

On 9 September 2022, all Agriculture Ministers approved the implementation of the National Biosecurity Council proposal for electronic identification devices (eID) for sheep and goats and agreed to work towards mandatory implementation in each jurisdiction by 1 January 2025.

Where's Woolly video - explains the why:

Where's Woolly video.mp4

Wheres Woolly title page

Identification devices

Electronic identification (eID) devices, also called ‘eID tags’ allow individual identification of animals. These devices contain a Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) microchip that can be read via a handheld scanning wand or panel reader.

Each device has a unique internal serial number linked to an external code (NLISID) to provide the unique identifier associated with the animal that is tagged.

  • The RFID is like the VIN of a car and the external NLISID like the numberplate – they both identify and can be used to trace the owner of the one vehicle.
  • eID for livestock includes:
    • ear tags (sheep, goats, cattle)
    • hock bands (goats only), and
    • rumen boluses (cattle only).

RFID and eID technology has been used successfully for many years in livestock such as cattle and companion animals such as dogs and cats.

Electronic tag system

Implementing sheep and goat eID will mean a  lamb or kid will have a year of birth coloured eID tag applied at marking. The eID tag will have the PIC of tagging location stamped on it, and the historic pink tags will not be necessary when the stock move to a different PIC.

New owners will scan the unique eID number to record that animal coming onto their PIC on the NLIS database.

In summary eID (sheep and goats) will mean:

  • The individual animal’s lifetime traceability will be available on the NLIS database.  
  • A pink post-breeder eID tag will only be necessary if an animal has lost its original tag.
  • eID requires only the one tag for the life of the animal.
  • Electronic identification speeds up the tracing process by showing the life history of each animal and only the animals that actually came into contact with them or were definitely at the same place at the same time (e.g. saleyard etc). 
  • eID also shows which animals in a mob were moved onto and remain on a property, and which ones from that mob were moved off.
  • eID can show gaps in movement history and errors.

More information is provided in the general FAQs featured in the document section on the right hand side of this webpage.

WA NLIS Sheep and Goat Advisory Group

The WA NLIS Sheep and Goat Advisory Group (SGAG) was established in November 2021 as a forum to discuss, consult, develop and communicate traceability enhancements across the commercial sheep and goat supply chain, and with non-commercial stock owners.

The impetus for forming the group was to enhance aweareness and preparedness for the anticipated national agreement to mandate individual electronic identification (eID) in sheep and goats.

Members of the SGAG consider that an effective traceability system, in addition to being economically beneficial, is of vital public interest for maintaining food security across the whole of the livestock industry.

The SGAG makes recommendations to DPIRD on how mandatory eID could be implemented to enhance and streamline implementation in WA. Industries involvement in development of an eID business plan optimises opportunities for funding and successful implementation.

Progress to date

The SGAG have held four meetings over the past year, with the final meeting for 2022 scheduled for 15 December.

To date, members of the SGAG have:

  • reviewed DPIRD commissioned reports on the implementation of eID in Victoria and on the supply chain infrastructure, tags and staffing required to mobilise eID in WA
  • invited WA visual tag manufacturers to be involved in the discussion
  • workshopped practical transition timeframes, activities and potential subsidies  
  • considered how the industry as a whole can address areas for improvement in the other components of traceability with a co-branded communications package.

Upcoming events

  • Next meeting of the SGAG: 15 December, 2022
  • NLIS training and workshops available on request
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National Sheep and Goat Traceability Taskforce (SGTTF)

A national Sheep and Goat Traceability Taskforce (SGTTF) has been convened and is developing harmonised national business rules and funding arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States.