Earmarking and branding consultation

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Consultation on a proposal to make earmarking and branding for sheep and cattle optional in Western Australia has closed.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) thanks the wide range of Western Australian livestock owners, industry and community members who provided feedback on a proposal to make earmarking and branding of stock optional.

The proposal involves amending the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 to remove the mandatory requirements for earmarking sheep and earmarking or branding cattle.

Consultation on the proposal opened on 17 November and closed on 22 December 2020. A wide range of views were received through the consultation survey from 574 respondents. Please see the consultation report to read more about the background to the proposal, the consultation process, the breakdown of results and the main reasons given in submissions for why people supported or opposed the proposal.

Consultation outcome

The Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry, Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC, has approved DPIRD to commence drafting amendments to existing legislation to implement this change.

The decision follows finalisation of the DPIRD consultation report, which showed the majority (64%) of respondents to the consultation survey supported the proposal for both sheep and cattle.

What will change

The following changes will occur once the amended regulations have been introduced:

  • Owners will have a choice either to stop or to continue to earmark or brand stock.
  • Owners will be required to apply an NLIS device to their cattle by six months of age in the South West land division or 18 months of age in the pastoral region, or before leaving the property, whichever occurs first. (Currently an NLIS device only needs to be applied before the cattle leave the property, regardless of age.)

What will stay the same

Once the amended regulations have been introduced:

  • Owners will continue to be able to earmark or brand if they wish to do so.
  • DPIRD will continue to issue brands and earmarks to all registered owners and to maintain the stock brand register.
  • Owners who continue to earmark and/or brand will still be required to use their allocated registered earmark and brand.
  • It will remain an offence to use someone else’s identifiers or to create identification marks that will cause confusion with registered identifiers.

Next steps

DPIRD will begin drafting amendments to existing regulations to implement this change.

Until the changes are legislated (expected to be early 2022), sheep and cattle owners must continue to earmark and/or brand, as required for their livestock species, under the current Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013.

More information

DPIRD will continue to provide updates before the amended regulations are published.

Information on current identification requirements for sheep and cattle is available via:

Consultation on a proposal to make earmarking and branding for sheep and cattle optional in Western Australia has closed.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) thanks the wide range of Western Australian livestock owners, industry and community members who provided feedback on a proposal to make earmarking and branding of stock optional.

The proposal involves amending the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 to remove the mandatory requirements for earmarking sheep and earmarking or branding cattle.

Consultation on the proposal opened on 17 November and closed on 22 December 2020. A wide range of views were received through the consultation survey from 574 respondents. Please see the consultation report to read more about the background to the proposal, the consultation process, the breakdown of results and the main reasons given in submissions for why people supported or opposed the proposal.

Consultation outcome

The Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry, Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC, has approved DPIRD to commence drafting amendments to existing legislation to implement this change.

The decision follows finalisation of the DPIRD consultation report, which showed the majority (64%) of respondents to the consultation survey supported the proposal for both sheep and cattle.

What will change

The following changes will occur once the amended regulations have been introduced:

  • Owners will have a choice either to stop or to continue to earmark or brand stock.
  • Owners will be required to apply an NLIS device to their cattle by six months of age in the South West land division or 18 months of age in the pastoral region, or before leaving the property, whichever occurs first. (Currently an NLIS device only needs to be applied before the cattle leave the property, regardless of age.)

What will stay the same

Once the amended regulations have been introduced:

  • Owners will continue to be able to earmark or brand if they wish to do so.
  • DPIRD will continue to issue brands and earmarks to all registered owners and to maintain the stock brand register.
  • Owners who continue to earmark and/or brand will still be required to use their allocated registered earmark and brand.
  • It will remain an offence to use someone else’s identifiers or to create identification marks that will cause confusion with registered identifiers.

Next steps

DPIRD will begin drafting amendments to existing regulations to implement this change.

Until the changes are legislated (expected to be early 2022), sheep and cattle owners must continue to earmark and/or brand, as required for their livestock species, under the current Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013.

More information

DPIRD will continue to provide updates before the amended regulations are published.

Information on current identification requirements for sheep and cattle is available via:

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Before asking a question, please register on the Talking Biosecurity site.

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    If this optional branding/earmarking becomes law what protections are available to producers who continue to earmark or brand for Biosecurity tracability from being targeted by Animal Welfare Groups?

    Dewar Flats asked 9 months ago

    The proposal is about the choice of individual stock owners to use earmarking/branding, not to remove the ability to use them.

    Under current WA animal welfare legislation, earmarking and branding are allowed when undertaken in accordance with generally accepted husbandry practice and methods. 

    The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (Cattle Standards), which have been consulted on extensively and are currently being drafted into regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, will require a person to use the most appropriate and least painful method to identify cattle that is applicable to WA and the production system. 

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    With the differences in earmarking requirements in the Eastern Sates versus WA, how do stock number thefts and prosecutions compare between states. And, what has the feedback been from producers in the Eastern states been, after the removal of earmarking requirements?

    SBeckwith asked 10 months ago

    Hi S

    Thanks for your question. Stock theft in WA is a criminal offence that is investigated and prosecuted by WA Police. DPIRD is not aware of any national register of reported stock theft that would allow stock theft numbers and prosecutions in each jurisdiction to be compared.

    DPIRD encourages you to make a submission with your views about optional earmarking and branding.

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    Is the branding of horses to be made optional also as it is in other states? Electronic tag registered with breed or discipline body provide traceability of animals.

    pip6566 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Pip

    There are already alternatives for WA horse owners if they do not wish to brand their horses, including microchipping by a vet – see the webpage: Horse and donkey identification in Western Australia for more information on approved horse identification options.

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    This is more of a statement than a question The stock owners PIC should be on all ear tags not their brand as it is directly linked to the stock owner

    wallace70 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Wallace

    Thanks for your comment. Under current regulations stock owners have a choice whether to have their brand or their PIC on the NLIS sheep eartag.

    DPIRD is currently consulting stakeholders on their views on whether to make earmarking and branding optional, while retaining the NLIS as it stands. DPIRD encourages your submission on this topic using the online submission form.

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    How will we identify stock theft, tags can be removed and replaced as opposed to an ear mark which including in the event of tag loss still identifies the animals original owner.

    Tobyrichter253 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Toby

    The current proposal allows individual owners of stock to make their own choice to continue or to stop earmarking sheep and earmarking and/or branding cattle. Owners who find that earmarking/branding provides a benefit to their business (such as offering additional protection against stock theft) will be able to continue to earmark/brand. 

    DPIRD encourages you to make a submission with your views on making earmarking and branding of stock optional.

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    Why change rules in relation to livestock registration when this current system works? Each animal has fixed property/ownership identity. If owners want to add electronic identity tags they may but these can be accidently or physically removed. WHO owns the bloody animal then? [ Keep the KISS formula[ Keep It Simple Stupid] .

    Gerbryn asked 10 months ago

    Hi Gerbryn

    Under this proposal livestock registration rules will not change and NLIS identification will remain mandatory. The proposal is to make earmarking and branding optional, so individual owners can choose whether to earmark or brand or not. Livestock owners who are concerned that NLIS tags may be removed can continue to earmark or brand. 

    DPIRD encourages you to make a submission on the proposal.

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    Maybe if NLIS tags were colour coded. I believe NLIS tags are sufficient. No need to Brand as well

    BeverleyFarm2020 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Beverley, NLIS sheep tags are colour coded by year of birth and imprinted with the owners’s brand/PIC; NLIS cattle tags are electronic and not colour coded for year of birth and can be read by a scanning wand/ reader to provide individual identification.

    DPIRD encourages you to make a submission to voice your views about making earmarking and branding optional.

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    is the anual colour tag with my brand the only identifying thing that i have to use

    ivan23450 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Ivan,

    NLIS identification for sheep (year-of-birth colour tag for homebred sheep and the pink tag for non-homebred stock) remains compulsory. If the proposal is successful, it will be your choice if you want to earmark your stock or not in future.

    DPIRD encourages you to make a submission with your views on making earmarking and branding optional in stock.

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    Why do sheep not have to have the electronic NLIS as required by cattle owners for traceability?

    DALE2379 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Dale

    Sheep owners in WA can also use NLIS electronic ID if they wish but this is not mandated under the current regulations. 

    National sheep industry groups are currently discussing the traceability benefits offered by electronic ID in sheep. 

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    To reduce the number of tags a sheep or cow needs to have to identify their ownership, could the current NLIS tags be year colour coded? I am happy for the practice of earmarking cattle and sheep and branding cattle to be optional. But not earmarking cattle or sheep and branding cattle should also be optional

    Shelley0202 asked 10 months ago

    Hi Shelley

    Under NLIS Cattle, cattle only require one NLIS tag/rumen bolus for life.

    For NLIS sheep, currently the WA sheep industry uses a visual NLIS tag, which is colour coded according to the lamb’s year of birth. 

    Subsequent changes of ownership for sheep are shown by using a pink NLIS tag in the other ear to the birth tag. 

    However, sheep owners also have the choice to use electronic sheep NLIS tags under the current regulations - these tags are also year colour coded for use on the property of birth. 

    You can read more about the current NLIS sheep regulations in this link on the consultation page.


Page last updated: 16 June 2021, 13:14