Tagging animals

Non-scanning tags

If a NAIT tag has been damaged and can’t be read with an RFID scanner you have two options;

1. Read the tag visually

You can read the visual ID printed on the casing of the tag and manually enter this into the NAIT system.
You can still meet your obligations to register or record a movement for the animal even if the tag wont scan.

1.      2. Apply to remove and replace the tag

NeNever remove a NAIT tag without permission from NAIT. If you need to remove and replace a tag due to it being damaged, contact OSPRI on 0800 482 463. Once a new tag is applied, you’ll need to record a tag replacement in the NAIT system to link the old tag with the new and retain traceability of the animal. 

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Tag your animals

Cattle and deer must be tagged with NAIT approved RFID tags. These animals must be tagged within six months of birth, or before they move off farm - whichever is soonest. NAIT tags are the only tags required by law. Animal Health Board (AHB) approved tags are no longer compulsory, but you should not remove these tags from existing animals.

Animals only need one NAIT tag each. You don't need to tag an animal with your own NAIT tag if it already has one.

Remember to register your animals after they've been tagged. It's an important step as it distinguished tags sitting in the shed, from tags that are actually in animals.

Find out how to register your livestock

NAIT tags can only be removed with permission from NAIT. Please call or email us if you need to do this. NAIT tags cannot be reused for any reason, as each tag has a unique number that identifies a single animal.

Exemptions

  • Cattle and deer which the farmer considers too dangerous to tag do not need a NAIT tag if they are going directly to a meat processor. A levy of $13 per head excluding GST applies to these animals.
  • Calves less than 30 days old going directly to a meat processor (bobby calves), with a direct to slaughter tag issued by the meat processor, do not need a NAIT tag.
  • Trophy stags that are going to a game estate, safari park or zoo do not need a NAIT tag.
  • Fallow deer are exempt from NAIT tagging.

You still need a NAIT number even if a tagging exemption applies to your animals.

If you have trophy stags or fallow deer, you must be registered with NAIT, tell NAIT how many of these deer are on your property and update this number every year.

How NAIT tags work

Tags approved for use in the NAIT scheme are RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. They can store information on a microchip inside the tag.

This microchip also holds a globally unique 15 digit number which identifies that tag and the animal it is on once you register the animal in the NAIT system. This 15 digit number is linked to the visual printing you can see on the outside of the tag in the NAIT system. This visual printing is different for different tag types.

NAIT tags come in two broad types - HDX and FDX. This relates to the way they operate when they are scanned by an RFID reader.

HDX and FDX tags differ in both price and functionality. You can choose either option for your NAIT approved tags.

HDX (half duplex)

  • HDX tags must recharge and wait until the reader is in listen mode before the data can be received.
  • HDX technology have a longer read range for similar sized transponders.
  • Some on-farm automation systems (e.g. Protrack) will only work with HDX tags.
  • HDX tags are a popular choice for dairy farmers.

FDX (full duplex)

  • FDX tags transmit their data to the reader as long as they are in the read field of the antenna.
  • FDX tags are suited to most sheep and beef environments.
  • FDX tags are suited to most deer shed environments.

Both HDX or FDX tags will have better performance if they are read with a scanner that is tuned to that type of tag.

Benefits of RFID technology

RFID technology enables many on farm benefits, including:

  • automated animal drafting, and
  • recording of individual animal details, such as:
    • weight
    • treatments
    • velvet yeild
    • breeding information, and
    • milk production.

Achieving on farm productivity gains through RFID technology requires further investment, such as RFID reading equipment and computer software suitable for your production type and business needs. This is not mandatory under the NAIT scheme.

Beef+Lamb director and Waiarapa farmer, George Tatham, is an excellent example of how NAIT RFID technology can provide real value when used in conjunction with current on-farm management tools.

“The RFID tags have proved to be very beneficial to us with our trading stock. Providing accurate stock weights and comparison of different lines is very simple to track. We have also been able to compare different forages and the different live weight gains they provide. The RFID technology may seem expensive at the start, but once we realised the benefits, it becomes a very smart investment.”

Buying tags

Once you are registered with NAIT, the next step is to buy tags for your animals. NAIT tags cost around $5.00 each. This includes a tag levy of $0.90 which goes towards running the NAIT scheme.

You can order NAIT approved tags through your local farm supply store, your vet, or through your artificial breeding provider. You will need to have your NAIT number to order your tags.

Remember to order white tags for cattle, and orange tags for deer.

These manufacturers produce NAIT approved tags:

Types of NAIT tags

NAIT approved tags use RFID technology. Each tag has a globally unique 15 digit number, which can be read by RFID scanners. The NAIT system keeps a record of individual tags and information about the animals that have been tagged and registered. Remember to get the right colour tags for your animals:

  • White tags are for cattle. They must also have a white back (male) portion.
  • Orange tags are for deer. The back (male) portion can be any colour except white.

HDX or FDX tags?

NAIT tags come in two broad types - HDX and FDX. This relates to the way they operate when they are scanned by an RFID reader.

HDX and FDX tags differ in both price and functionality. You can choose either option for your NAIT approved tags.

HDX (half duplex)

HDX tags are higher performing and have a longer read range. They also have protection from outside interference.

  • Some on-farm automation systems (e.g. Protrack) will only work with HDX tags
  • HDX tags are a popular choice for dairy farmers
  • Some older cattle crushes with a lot of metal noise are better suited to HDX

FDX (full duplex)

FDX tags have a shorter read range and no protection from outside interference.

  • FDX tags are suited to most sheep and beef environments
  • FDX tags meet the minimum requirements for NAIT compliance.

Both HDX or FDX tags will have better performance if they are read with a scanner that is tuned to that type of tag.

Birth tags

Birth tags should be used for all newborn animals. They are printed with:

  • a herd number (NAIT number from 1 July 2015) or dairy participant code
  • the year (optional if not ordering through LIC or CRV), and
  • the animal's sequence number.

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View guides on entering tag details into the NAIT system: Cattle or Deer

Birth tags can also be purchased with a matching visual panel tag. This is know as a birth set. Having a matching panel tag makes it easier to see the animal's management ID number for use on farm. This is useful if an animal loses its RFID tag and you have to update the NAIT system, or to identify animals when you are selling or moving them off farm.

Replacement tags

Replacement tags should only be used for animals that lose their existing NAIT RFID tag. They will have a similar print format to current traka tags:

  • a NAIT number or dairy participant code, and
  • the tag's RFID number.

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Old tag types

Traka and management RFID tags are no longer sold. These tags can still be used as long as they were issued before July 2015.

Traka tags are printed with:

  • a herd number or dairy participant code, and
  • the tag's RFID number.

Management RFID tags are printed with:

  • the tag's RFID number
  • a dairy participant code, and
  • the animal's sequence number.

Other tags

Visual panel tags

NAIT approved RFID tags are not intended to be read visually. You may choose to use other visual panel tags to help with identifying your stock. You can also choose to purchase your NAIT tags as a birth set. Birth sets can come with a matching panel tag in a range of sizes, printed with the same information as the RFID tag.

Animal Health Board (AHB) approved tags

AHB approved tags are no longer required for cattle or deer. The only mandatory tag is the NAIT approved RFID tag. However, existing AHB tags on stock should not be removed.

TB disease management tags

The TBfree New Zealand programme uses different tags for TB disease management purposes. Animals that react to an initial skin test get an orange TB tag in their ear. This shows they have reacted to the test, but will have more testing before being cleared of TB.

Read more about TB testing

Animals that are being moved from an infected herd, but have returned a negative TB test, have white TB tags placed in their ear. This is for identification and movement control purposes.

Read more about TB infected herds

How to tag

NAIT RFID tags should be applied:

  • to the right ear
  • to the central/inner part of the ear between the two veins, and
  • with the female part of the tag facing forward.

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This will ensure a high retention rate.

The right ear is preferred as meat processing facilities, sale yards and many farmers use fixed panel readers with scanning capability on the right hand side of the animal.

You should take note of the tag numbers you are using on animals. This will make it easier for you to register the animals in the NAIT system.

Tag applicators can be purchased through your local farm supply store. Be sure to ask for the correct applicator for the tags you are buying. You may want to seek tag manufacturer's advice regarding which applicator is compatible with the tags you have.

RFID tag readers

Using an RFID tag reader is a great way to keep on top of your NAIT requirements. These are not mandatory under the scheme, but they can provide many benefits to you:

  • Eliminates human error when writing down visual tag numbers.
  • Reads the tag signal correctly even if the tag is covered in dirt, mud or excrement.
  • Improves safety by minimising the need for close contact with the animals (an electronic tag scanner picks up tag signals at a distance of between 30-90cm).
  • Data can be used in conjunction with other on-farm tools and software to improve individual animal records and production.

Types of tag readers

There are numerous brands and reader types, so it pays to shop around to make sure you get the reader that is most suited to your farming practice and what you need it to do. Most brands are available from your local rural supply store or online.

The three main types of readers are:

Portable mini RFID reader

  • Smaller and less costly than larger wand readers.
  • Their size means you need to be closer to stock to read their tag.
  • Not all models are wireless capable or have rechargeable batteries.
  • Not all models are able to connect with smartphones.
  • This option is best suited for smaller herds or lifestyle farmers.

Prices generally range from $350 - $500 +GST

Portable RFID wand/stick reader

  • Larger and more durable than mini RFID readers, these are the most common on-farm readers.
  • Most models are wireless and bluetooth capable.
  • Many come with their own smartphone app which can send data directly to NAIT.
  • Often come with rechargeable batteries.
  • They provide effective operation from a safe distance and come in a wide variety to suit your herd size and farming practice.

Prices generally range from $1000 - $2500 +GST

Fixed panel RFID reader

  • The largest and most expensive option, fixed panel readers provide an effective solution for reading stock moving into or through a certain point – such as weigh scales, a race or a crush.
  • Can be linked to weigh scales and other animal handling facilities.
  • They have greater tag reading distances than hand held readers.
  • Require a larger power source.
  • Ideal for reading large numbers of stock, which is why they are generally used by saleyards.

Prices generally range from $2800 - $3500 +GST

How do I get data from my reader into NAIT?

RFID readers generally come complete with their own computer compatibility options. Once animals are scanned, users can upload tag number files from their tag reader directly to a computer using plug-in USB technology. Once correctly formatted, data can then be uploaded directly into the NAIT system.

Find out how to set up your file for uploading to NAIT (see Uploading Tag Files)

Many companies also incorporate NAIT functionality into existing farm management tools, such as weigh scale software. This allows more effective individual animal management. There are also a number of mobile apps available to assist with NAIT farm management. If you are already using farm management software then speak to your provider, or look online to find out what options are available.

Safety

Being safe on the farm is important, especially when handling cattle and deer. Animals are bigger than you, they move faster than you and they can kick a lot harder than you. Handling them safely is a skill.

People handling animals need to be well trained so they can care for the animals, maintain animal welfare and production standards and avoid being harmed themselves.

For animals that are considered too dangerous to tag, we encourage you to use the impractical to tag exemption. The animals must be going directly to a meat processor. This exemption incurs a levy of $13 per head excluding GST.

Handling cattle safely

Here are the top five no-bull tips from ACC for handling cattle safely:

Keep cattle calm

  • Give them time to settle down, particularly when you've just moved them into the yards. After 30 minutes they'll be a lot easier and safer to work with.

Always keep your eyes open

  • If you're concentrating on a difficult animal you can lose track of what other cattle are doing. Keep looking around, so you're aware of what's going on.

Use your voice

  • Good cattle handlers use their voices to calm and soothe. But it also lets them know where you are.

Carry a big stick

  • You need to show authority and confidence or you'll have trouble. So, carry a length of alkathene pipe (a waddy) or a long stick. If you've got a waddy, it makes you look bigger. It also gives you confidence when you're dealing with toey animals.

Check the yards before moving cattle in

  • Check the layout and know how things work before you take the cattle in. Check the headbail is working and is adjusted for the size of the cattle. Remove anything that might trip you up. Check all gates are properly latched and they can be opened and closed quickly.

For cattle that are too dangerous to tag, the impractical to tag exemption should be used. They must be going directly to a meat processor. This exemption incurs a levy of $13 per head excluding GST.

Handling deer safely

Here are some tips from ACC for handling deer safely:

  • Deer should be handled quietly and with care and patience.
  • Familiarise deer with handling facilities and procedures from an early age.
  • Large groups of deer should be broken into smaller groups of 10 to 15 for handling and entering the yards.
  • Have the minimum number of people required for the job.
  • Deer should be able to see animals in neighbouring pens to reduce stress.
  • Before you bring deer in it is important to set the gates up first to allow the mob to enter the yards, and have all the equipment ready.

For deer that are too dangerous to tag, the impractical to tag exemption should be used. They must be going directly to a meat processor. This exemption incurs a levy of $13 per head excluding GST.

Lost or damaged tags

Correctly applied NAIT approved RFID tags have a high retention rate. But occasionally tags may be lost or damaged.

If a tag is damaged, you must contact NAIT to request permission to remove the tag from the animal first.

If one of your animals loses a tag or has a damaged tag removed you need to:

1. Retag the animal

You can use a replacement tag when re-tagging an animal. If you want the new tag to have the same visual ID as the old tag, you can order a replacement tag with a duplicate visual ID. Duplicate visual ID tags cannot be registered against any other animal.

If you manage your herd using other visual panel tags, you can link any existing visual tags to the new RFID replacement tag.

2. Update the tag information in the NAIT system

If you do not know which tag was lost, register the animal against the new tag in the same way you would register a newly tagged animal. Lifetime traceability for this animal will be lost.

If you know which tag was lost, you can simply replace the tag in the NAIT system.

Recording a tag replacement 

To replace a tag in the NAIT system for a lost or damaged tag, follow these instructions:

1. Log on to the NAIT system.

2. Click on your NAIT number.

3. You will be taken to the 'registered animals' page. Select the animal that needs its tag replaced by checking the box on the left of the relevant visual ID number.

4. Click 'replace tag'.

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5. Enter in the new visual tag ID or choose the new tag from a list of tags you have purchased.

6. Enter the reason for the replacement.

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7. Click 'continue' to finish replacing the tag.

Reading tags

Every NAIT approved RFID tag contains a unique number that is linked to an individual animal in the NAIT system. This RFID number is required to register the animal, move the animal and update its details. The tag number can be read in the following ways:

Visually reading the tag

This is best done before the tag is on an animal. Once it is on an animal it will be very difficult to get close enough to safely read the printing. Different types of tags made by different manufacturers are printed in various ways.

Using a visual panel tag

To be able to identify an animal from a distance, you can use a visual panel tag with larger printing. This is in addition to the NAIT approved RFID tag.

You can choose to use your own type of panel tag, and link the panel tag and RFID tag in the system. Or you can purchase a birth set when buying NAIT approved RFID tags. A birth set comes with a panel tag printed with the same information as the RFID tag. These tags are already linked in the NAIT system.

Reading tags with an RFID scanner

You can use an electronic scanner to read RFID tags. A scanner will collect the tag data and save it into a file. This file can then be uploaded to the NAIT system when registering animals, or recording animal movements.

Leave it to a NAIT accredited entity

If you are sending animals to a NAIT accredited sale yard or meat processor, you do not need to have read the tag numbers first. They will scan the tags and record the movement for you.

If you are receiving animals from a NAIT accredited sale yard, they will scan the tags and record the sending movement to you. You must confirm you have received these animals.

View the list of NAIT accredited entities

Have a NAIT accredited information provider do it

A NAIT accredited information provider can help you with your NAIT requirements. They can read tags, register animals and record animal movements on your behalf.

View the list of NAIT accredited information providers

Non-compliant tag printing

Before the NAIT scheme started, some tags were sold where multiple tags had the same information printed on the outside. We have extended the NAIT system to accept these tags when read by a scanner. The visual information in the NAIT system for these tags has been changed to the approved format, so it will not match what is seen on the tag.

These tags require you to use a scanner to read them. They cannot be read using the printing on the tag. If you do not own a scanner and need assistance call our team on 0800 624 843.

Examples of tags with incorrect printing include:

  • Tags with a number range and a year but no participant code, e.g. 09-203
  • Tags with only a number printed on them, e.g. 180
  • Tags with text only, e.g. HIGH COUNTRY FARM
  • Tags with only the 16 digit RFID number, e.g. 911 000003128214
  • Tags with only a year and RFID number, e.g. 09 911 000003128214

Tag reading guide

Find out how to read the numbers on your NAIT tags and enter them into the NAIT system when you're registering animals or recording movements.

Download a tag reading factsheet 

Linking Tags

NAIT RFID tags are not intended to be read visually. You may choose to use other visual panel tags to help with identifying your stock. You can also choose to purchase your NAIT tags as a birth set. These come with a matching visual panel tag, printed with the same information as the RFID tag.

If you are using a birth set, you do not need to link the panel tag to the RFID tag, because they have matching numbers.

If you are using other visual panel tags, you can link these to the animal's RFID tag in the NAIT system. To do this you will need to read the RFID tag once (either with a scanner or visually).

Linking tags when registering an animal

To link a visual panel tag to an animal's NAIT RFID tag when registering that animal follow these instructions:

1. Log on to the NAIT system.
2. Click 'register animals' and follow the registration process.
3. At the 'provide animal details' page, you will see a box for 'other visual tag' in the 'tags' section. This is where you enter the visual panel tag number.

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4. Click on 'register' at the end of the page to finish the process. The visual panel tag number will now be displayed in the 'other identifier' column of your registered animals.

Linking tags for already registered animals

To link a visual panel tag to a previously registered animal's NAIT RFID tag follow these instructions:

1. Log on to the NAIT system.
2. Click on the NAIT number where the animal is registered.
3. The 'registered animals' page will be displayed. Select the check box next to the tag number you want to link a visual panel tag to. Then click 'edit selected animals' and choose 'edit animal details'.

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4. In the 'other visual tag' box in the 'tags' section, you can enter the visual panel tag number. You can also enter a name for the animal here if that helps you to identify them.

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5. Click on 'save' at the end of the page to finish the process. The visual panel tag number will now be displayed in the 'other identifier' column of your registered animals.

Changes to tags

There's 3 things you need to know about upcoming NAIT tag changes:

  • You now need to use your NAIT number when ordering tags.
  • From July 2015, traka and management RFID tags will not be sold.
  • From July 2015, you will only be able to purchase either birth tags (for newborn animals) or replacement tags (for animals that lose their RFID tag).

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Your questions answered

Do the changes apply to both cattle and deer tags?

Yes, the changes apply to cattle and deer tags in the same timeframe.

Can I still use the traka and management RFID tags I've already bought after July 2015?

Yes, previously purchased tags can still be used after July 2015, as long as they were issued before that date.

When should I use a replacement tag?

From July 2015, replacement tags should only be used when an animal loses its original tag. You also need to notify NAIT of the replacement. If you know the original tag number you need to use the ‘replace tag’ function in the NAIT system. If you do not know the original tag number, you’ll need to register the animal again (activate the new tag).

How much will replacement tags cost compared to traka tags and birth tags?

There is no cost difference between birth tags, traka tags and replacement tags. The only cost difference is between FDX and HDX (HDX are about $1 more expensive).

Why can't I buy traka or management RFID tags after July 2015?

Traka and management tags were brought in as a quick and easy way for farmers to make pre-NAIT animals compliant at the start of the scheme. As the transition period is coming to an end, these tags will not be necessary. Using a birth tag also makes it easier when registering animals as the printed number is shorter.

Do I still buy tags in the same way as before?

Yes you still by tags in the same way as you did before - through your local rural supply store, your vet, an artificial breeding provider, or normal tag supplier. Remember, from December 2014 you will need to use your NAIT number to order tags.

Will FDX and HDX options be available for birth tags and replacement tags?

Yes, both HDX and FDX will be available. A review of these options will be undertaken next year with the industry, to decide if both of these options are still required in the long term.