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Livestock traceability history

Animal Health Australia (AHA) has been involved in the development of robust livestock identification and traceability systems since it was established in 1996, but Australia’s livestock industries have been hard at work tracing animals since the 1960s.

How NLIS started in Australia

Australia’s first cattle-tracing system was introduced in the 1960s to assist the bovine Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC).

The BTEC system used a unique identification number that was aligned to an 8-digit code for each farm (parcel of land), known as the property identification code (PIC). The 8 digits of the PIC included a state identifier, a regional prefix and an individual property number relating to that region. Use of the PIC was underpinned by Australian state and territory legislation, and application of a tail tag or transaction ear tag became a mandatory requirement for all cattle sales and transfers of ownership.

Over time, this system became the enabling instrument for residue surveillance of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and disease surveillance.

In 1996, the PIC system was strengthened with the National Vendor Declaration (NVD), a food safety and product integrity consignment note attesting to the fitness-for-purpose of a given consignment of cattle.

Official government requirements mean that a separate NVD and tagging system is required for some markets.

Table 1: Timeline of Australia’s work towards permanent, whole-of-life identification of livestock

Year Activities
1960s Vinyl wraparound tail tag invented and trialled

Bovine Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC) Committee established

1966 Tail tagging of cattle begins in NSW
1969 BTEC begins
1970 Introduction of plastic or vinyl tail tag
1992 Vendor declaration and pink tail paint introduced for EU eligible cattle
1994 Pink tail and ear tags introduced to identify HGP-free cattle
1996 First edition of National Vendor Declaration (NVD) introduced
1999 First electronic NLIS (Cattle) tags released in Victoria

Decision to use NLIS (Cattle) to track all EU eligible cattle in Australia

2002 All cattle born in Victoria had to be NLIS identified
2003 Agreement to implement a risk-based approach to a national system for livestock identification and tracing. Proposal included a range of identification devices based on the complexity of animal movements.
2004 National agreement on livestock tracing performance standards. States and territories committed to fully implement NLIS (Cattle)
2006 NLIS (Sheep and Goats) implemented using visually readable tags and paper livestock movement records
2007 Electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags became available for use on a voluntary basis
2008 NLIS (Pork) development began
2008 NLIS (Alpaca & Llama) development began
2009 NLIS (Sheep and Goats) mandatory tag for all stock leaving property of birth

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Page reviewed: October 2, 2015