Government regulations in relation to purchasing, moving and selling livestock

For small or new farmers, purchasing and transporting livestock is not as simple as turning up at the saleyards, buying your animals, putting them in the back of your trailer and taking them home.


There are a number of legal requirements, which can incur hefty penalties if not observed, when it comes to owning, transporting and selling livestock. Some are state imposed and will vary depending on where you reside whilst others are mandatory national regulations.


Property Registration Requirements

Each property that wishes to have livestock of one or more head (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, buffalo, deer, camels, llama or alpaca) or 100 or more poultry including caged birds must apply for a property number by the state department of agriculture. If your land has previously had livestock then this number will be transferred to you upon purchase. If there has never been livestock there before then you will need to apply for a property number (PIC) which will enable you to transfer animals onto and off your property. You must notify the DPI (Department of Primary Industries) or relevant government departmnent of the sale or transfer of your PIC.


NLIS (National Livestock Identification System)

If you are a cattle, sheep, pig or goat producer, or work in the livestock industry, you are required to observe NLIS requirements NLIS is Australia's system for livestock identification and traceability. It is a permanent whole-of-life system that allows individual animals to be identified electronically and tracked from property of birth to slaughter, for food safety, product integrity and market access purposes. Permanent NLIS-approved identification devices (i.e. ear tags or rumen boluses) must be used that stay with the animal until death. All animals must be identified with a NLIS device before leaving a property.


Data on movements of individual stock  between locations with different Property Identification Codes (PICs) is reported to and recorded in the NLIS database. It is your responsibility that reports of transfers must be done within 48 hours of the completed movement to keep the NLIS database current. You will need to provide them with the numbers as they appear in each individual animal’s NLIS tag.  If you have purchased stock at a sale many of the agents will complete these transfers for you so check at time of purchase. To provide documentary information on animal movements, a waybill (NVD/waybill) is required under legislation to be held at origin and destination. 


Combined National Vendor Declaration NVD/Waybill

Combined NVD/Waybills are available for cattle, bobby calves, sheep and goats from Meat and Livestock Australia. Every animal that is sold within Australia must be accompanied by a NVD. The combined NVD/Waybill has legal recognition in that it meets the legal requirements for a waybill.  The combined NVD/waybills are produced in books of triplicate forms and are available from Meat and Livestock Australia under the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program.  Livestock owners must first register with the LPA.     People completing NVDs are legally obliged to ensure that any information made about their stock is completely accurate. Penalties exist if false or misleading information is given on the declaration.



Waybills are usually only used when animals are being transported from one place to another where no sale has occurred. The Stock Act 1915 requires traveling cattle to be accompanied by a waybill or an equivalent document such as a NVD. Waybills are completed by the actual owner or authorised agent of the owner or the occupier of the holding of the origin of the stock.    They are available in duplicate form; the original should be retained at the destination for five years while the duplicate remains at the property of origin for a period of five years. Penalties can be imposed for incorrect use of waybills. Waybill books can be purchased from the MLA.

Travel Permits

Travel or Stock Permits assist in disease control and animal traceback.  Most livestock movements only require a Waybill or NVD but the following movements also require a Travel Permit:


  • Livestock traveling from cattle tick infected areas to cattle tick protected or free areas.
  • Where the property of origin is under quarantine for disease control or chemical residues.
  • If stock are diseased or suspected of being diseased (a ‘suspect’ permit is required - for example cancerous eye, lumpy jaw, etc).
  • Livestock traveling to showgrounds.
  • Livestock traveling to interstate destinations.
  • Livestock traveling to export quarantine facilities.


Travel Permits are available from DPI/LHPA (Livestock Health and Pest Authorities) or your local government authority.


Brands and Earmarks

In Queensland all cattle of 100 kg and pigs of 30kg or more live weight must bear a registered brand before being sold.  Branding of sheep or goats is not compulsory, however when an animal is branded with a legally registered sheep/goat brand, symbol brand or earmark, it does constitute proof of ownership. There are specific rules as to where the brands or earmarks are to appear.


Withholding Periods (WHPs)

The majority of products that are used to treat animals for internal and external parasites have a WHP. A product’s WHP is the legal period between treatments and slaughter for domestic markets. It is the length of time required to ensure that any chemical residue has fallen below the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) at product harvest. MRLs are the maximum chemical concentrations that are permitted in foodstuffs. WHPs are legally binding and are printed on chemical/drug labels.


Where to From Here?

More information on the NLIS system and your responsibility in owning, transporting and selling livestock by visiting the Meat and Livestock Australia website.

About the Author?

Margo Hayes has been involved with a small breed of cattle, Australian Lowline, for 12 years and more recently RedLine and has shown the Grand Champion Australian Lowline Bull at the Royal Brisbane Show for eight consecutive years, the Grand Champion Carcass at the Royal Brisbane Show in 2008 and recently written a book titled Small Cattle for Small Farms.

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