Sheep Basics - Records and Paperwork
While sheep treatments are non-compulsory, some paperwork is a legal requirement in Australia. The Internet and your
local agriculture department can give you more details about the Property Identification Code, National Livestock Identification, National Vendor Declaration and
National Sheep Health Statement, but here are the basics:
All properties with any stock at all are required to apply for a Property Identification Code (PIC), and all stock for sale must have a PIC tag.
You order PIC tags with your PIC number, and put them in the sheep's ear with an applicator. There is a rotating tag colour system for each year, though you don't have to use
You apply for your National Vendor Declarations and National Sheep Health Statements, which come in a book or on-line, and you are required to
give the purchaser the completed forms when you sell sheep.
When you buy sheep, you are required to notify the National Livestock Identification System online. It's designed to track sheep treatments
and movements in a large national database, so that any outbreak of disease can be dealt with quickly. It's important, but the red tape can drive you nuts.
Small farmers everywhere who are interested in breeding also need their own records system to identify individual sheep and their
lambs. Triple tagging is the safest:
The PIC tag is only needed for a sale. It's a small tag with your farm's PIC number, and a V in a circle if the sheep is vaccinated against OJD.
You can mark the sheep's own tag number on a PIC tag, but it's not readable in the paddock.
If you want to identify sheep without having to bring them into the yards, they need a numbered tag that is big enough to read at a distance.
The 'pig tag' size is useful - cattle tags are very heavy in a sheep's ear.
To be sure of the dam of every lamb, it pays to walk the paddock at least daily, and put a small metal 'birth tag' into each new lamb's ear
before it is sprightly enough to run away from you and its dam. The new alternative is a machine that reads special RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tags to record
which lambs stick close to which ewes, which are probably their dams. RFID tags also integrate with computer-programmed automatic weighing and drafting machines. It's 'the
way of the future', but a big expense for a small flock.
New farmers often try marker pens, velcro straps, multiple counts and crystal ball gazing to keep track of new lambs, before eventually
deciding that tags are worthwhile. If breeding details matter to you, the stud breeder says "if you've lost the tag, you've lost the sheep".