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Ear tagging and ear marking

Ear tagging and ear marking are used to identify livestock.

Ear tagging is an essential part of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and ear marking or notching is a mandatory requirement in some states. It also has business benefits by enabling livestock to be identified on-farm, leading to improved management.

National Livestock Identification System

The NLIS is Australia's system for the identification and tracing of cattle, sheep and goats for biosecurity, food safety, product integrity and market access purposes.

NLIS devices for cattle can be either an ear tag or a rumen bolus/visual ear tag combination. NLIS devices for sheep and goats can either be a visual ear tag or an RFID ear tag.

NLIS devices include the Property Identification Code (PIC) or the brand in Western Australia. NLIS devices are available from NLIS state authorities.

When applying NLIS devices producers need to:

  • Use the correct equipment.
  • Keep ear tag applicators in good working order.
  • Keep the applicators clean and dip in disinfectant between each animal (when in use).

Ear marking livestock

The requirement to ear mark (ear notch) livestock varies around Australia. It is possible that these requirements may change as part of the development of new Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals.

Producers should check with their state department of primary industries as to the legal requirement to ear mark livestock in their State. In some states livestock must be ear marked prior to sale.

In addition, all cattle treated with a hormonal growth implant must be permanently identified using the HGP triangular ear mark in the middle of the right ear.

When ear marking, producers should ensure that:

  • Ear marking pliers are kept well maintained and sharpened before use.
  • Ear punches are kept clean and dipped in disinfectant between each animal.