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The aim of these requirements is to maintain a system for the identification and registration of cattle to facilitate traceability, in particular in the event of a disease outbreak. These requirements apply to all cattle keepers, even if you keep cattle as pets.

For cross compliance purposes you do not need to do anything more than is already required by law.

Main requirements


All bovine animals must be identified:

  • with Defra approved tags confirming a unique identification number for each calf born on the holding, including the UK herd-mark and sequential number
  • by double tagging all beef calves born on the holding within 20 days or before the animal leaves the holding, whichever is sooner
  • fit one tag to calves born in dairy herds within 36 hours and the second within 20 days
  • fit replacement tags for missing or illegible eartags within 28 days of noticing the loss, or before the animal leaves the holding
  • approved identification marks must not be altered, obliterated or defaced
  • a third tag can be applied for management or export purposes
  • export tags will require a ‘GB’ country code prefix and the animals existing ID number

Cattle passports

  • apply to British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) for a cattle passport within 27 days of birth at the latest, or 7 days for bisons
  • ensure that cattle are accompanied by their individual signed passport during movements
  • notify BCMS of movements of cattle onto or off the holding within 3 days of the movement
  • notify BCMS of any cattle deaths on your holding, and return the passport to BCMS within 7 days
  • a passport must not be altered or defaced

On-farm register

  • an up-to-date on-farm herd register to show eartag number, dam ID, date of birth, breed and sex must be kept
  • the register should include dates of movement on and off farm, with the addresses of where the animals have come from/departed to. It should include dates of all deaths and the destinations of carcasses
  • the herd register must be completed within 36 hours of a movement, within 7 days of a death and within 30 days of the birth of a calf (7 days of a birth in a dairy herd)
  • keep the herd register for 10 years after the last entry and make it available to the Welsh Government, Local Authority or Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on request

Field checks

  • check to ensure that all bovines are tagged in line with requirements and replace missing tags within the required timeline
  • check that all passports in your possession correspond to a specific animal and that all bovines have a passport (or CPP35 registration document)
  • check that printed details on a passport match farm records
  • check the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) database to ensure your cattle (for which you are the keeper) are accurately listed and notify any inaccuracies
  • check that farm records are complete, kept up-to-date and match the CTS record

To aid field checks, you should:

  • maintain a cattle handling system that serves its purpose well, and allows for the passage of cattle in an efficient manner
  • provide sufficient labour to ensure a safe environment when handling cattle

Good practice

  • as part of your regular checks of cattle, ensure both eartags are secure and readable. Damaged or lost eartags must be replaced within 28 days of discovering a loss
  • use CTS online to register births, report movements and deaths. In addition to being quicker it also highlights any errors or gaps in your records, which can be corrected and will help to avoid cross compliance penalties
  • cross check the list of cattle tested during TB tests (and other gathering events) against those recorded for your holding on CTS

Further information

For further information please contact:

  • British Cattle Movement Service
  • Local Authorities (usually Trading Standards)

or see Cross compliance: useful contacts (2024) factsheet.