Reusable or Single Use: Which Sheep EID Tags Are Right For You?

When it comes to EID tags, all sheep farmers have two choices: 

  1. Reusable EID tags: EID tags have the ability to be removed from one sheep and placed in another sheep.
  2. Single-use EID tags: EID tags can only be used in one animal for its whole life. The tag is damaged when removed which prevents it from being placed in more than one sheep.

With the requirement for all sheep in Australia to be sold with compliant NLIS approved tags, sheep producers using EID’s need to make the choice of whether to use reusable or single-use EID Tags.

Only single-use EID tags that meet the relevant standards are NLIS compliant. For sheep farmers in Victoria where the use of NLIS EID tags is mandatory, there is no choice but to use single-use EID tags that are NLIS EID compliant.

For everyone else, it’s worth looking into both options to determine which one is right for your business. We’ll review each type of EID tag so you can see if there are any advantages or disadvantages. Keep in mind that all sheep sold in Australia must have a compliant NLIS approved tag, whether that be a visual tag or a single-use EID tag.

Reusable EID Tags

Reusable EID tags are ideal for short-term measurement, although they work equally well for long-term uses.

The biggest advantage of Reusable EID tags is that the tag often has a longer life than the animal and can be removed when no longer required. Any faulty tags are discarded and the remaining tags are reused. 

For example, if you are taking hogget stage measurements for the whole drop and then sending some animals off of your farm, the tag can be retrieved and reused, spreading the cost of the tags over more sheep and more years. The sheep that remain will keep their tag until they leave the farm.

Whilst reusable EID tags are often more expensive initially, using this process can be much cheaper than constantly buying new tags. To make an assessment of the overall expenses you need to factor in the labour cost of removing and cleaning the tags as well as the time to clear any associations from your Pedigree and Performance Recording Software. 

With the Leader style tags there are no other ongoing costs with this process. Other types of tags that have a male and female components usually house the EID chip in the female component. The male component is damaged to remove the tag, so there is also an additional cost of buying the replacement male side of the tag each year.

You must also consider the cost of providing a visual NLIS tag for each animal. This can be avoided with the single-use NLIS EID tags.

The two most common types of reusable EID tags are the one-piece Leader Jumbo EID’s and the two-piece Allflex non-tamper proof tags. 

Types of Sheep EID Tags

Single-Use EID Tags

Single-use EID tags typically consist of wrap-around style tags that cannot be removed and reused. They are generally placed in the sheep’s ear at birth or marking and then remain with the animal its whole life.

Things to consider with single-use EID tags include:

  • If you have high-value sheep: You can’t afford to lose track of which is which you should consider a secondary form of identification (e.g. numbered visual tag) in case the tag is lost at some stage.
  • Where the RFID antenna is located: Some tags have the antenna in the stem of the tag and others in the body of the tag. In our experience, those tags with the RFID antenna in the stem are more prone to damage from handpieces at shearing time.

What About NLIS EID Tags?

NLIS EID tags are single-use EID tags that have been accredited by the National Livestock Identification System as complying with their standards. All sheep farmers in Victoria are required to use these and so is anyone trading sheep with Victoria.

NLIS tags must be single-use and tamperproof. This is because they’re meant to identify one animal and one animal only, and that tag is registered in a national database. The downside is that once the animal leaves your property the tag can’t be reused which can lead to higher costs.

NLIS EID tags must be HDX tags, which is another reason why these EID tags are becoming the standard. NLIS devices come in both wrap-around and two-piece variations.

FET Tags Sheep

Pictured above is an example of NLIS EID tags. While there are many different tags available we recommend the Zeetags FET tags, as they’ve proven to be extremely reliable with high retention rates.

Finally, all NLIS tags have a unique 16-digit NLIS number. Here’s an example of a typical NLIS number:

NLIS number

The first eight digits refer to the Property Identification Code (PIC) for your property. The next two digits are the manufacturer code and device type, which indicates the make and model of your device. The eleventh digit refers to the year the device was manufactured and the last five digits are the unique serial number for the animal.

When it comes to the serial number, the first digit can be either a letter or a number but the last four digits have to be numbers.


If you are farming outside of Victoria, then utilising re-usable EID Tags can be a great way to leverage the benefits of electronic individual animal recording, without the recurring cost of tags (note that two piece reusable tags still have a recurring cost). 

Reusable EID Tags will be most beneficial if:

  • You are recording data short term to inform selection and dont need it thereafter
  • You run a feedlot or trading enterprise and buy sheep without EID tags but want to track weight gains

With the introduction of mandatory NLIS tags there is a need for all sheep to eventually be sold with a NLIS approved tag. EID Tags keep getting cheaper and it is questionable whether the money saved on the initial investment warrants the cost of retrieving and cleaning the tag.

For this reason we recommend using NLIS approved EID Tags and doing away with your visual tags. The small additional upfront cost is far outweighed by the longer term benefits that can be achieved through PSM.