Guidance on keeping cattle, bison and buffalo in Great Britain

Anyone with responsibility for cattle or other bovine animals must follow the rules and procedures that apply to all cattle keepers.

Essential maintenance work is taking place on the livestock systems listed below.

This means these systems will be unavailable from 5pm on Friday 28 October until 7am on Monday 31 October 2016:

  • CTS Online
  • CTS Web Services
  • CTS Self Service Line
  • Cattle Ear Tag Allocation System

Farmers should try to submit notifications to BCMS before or after the dates above.

A cattle keeper is a person who is responsible for cattle, bison or buffalo on a permanent or temporary basis. In official guidance, the term ‘cattle’ always covers all 3 species.

Some examples of cattle keepers are:

  • farmers
  • people who run livestock markets and calf assembly centres
  • transporters
  • dealers who keep animals
  • people who run slaughterhouses and lairages

There are detailed laws setting out the tasks that cattle keepers must carry out, both before they take responsibility for animals and once animals are in their care.

Here’s a printable version of all of the guidance in this collection. You can use this if you’ve lost your paper version of the cattle keeper’s handbook.

What to do before you can keep cattle

To keep cattle, you must:

What you must do when you keep cattle

Once you are responsible for animals, you must follow the correct procedures for:

  • identifying animals and keeping records
  • reporting certain events (births, movements, deaths, and lost and stolen animals) to BCMS

Relevant regulations

In England, the regulations on cattle identification are the Cattle Identification Regulations 2007, as emended by the Animal Health By-products (Enforcement) England Regulation (SI 2013/295) and the Cattle Identification (amendment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/295).

There are separate regulations for Scotland and Wales.


The requirements on cattle identification, registration and tracing are governed by several pieces of EU legislation.

Regulation made by the European Parliament and Council

Regulation (EC) No 1760/00 establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 820/97.

Regulation made by the European Commission giving detailed rules

Regulation (EC) No 911/2004 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1760/00 as regards eartags, holding registers and passports in the framework of the system for the identification and registration of bovine animals.

Regulation (EC) No 1082/2003 as amended by Regulation (EC) 1034/2010 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1760/00 as regards the minimum level of controls to be carried out in the framework of the system for the identification and registration of bovine animals. This Regulation specifies the need for the competent authority to carry out on the spot inspections of GB cattle holdings. This has been amended by Regulation (EC) No 1034/2010 which has set the level at 3% of holdings to be inspected.

Regulation (EC) No 494/98 as amended by Regulation (EC) No1053/2010 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation 9EC) No 1760/00 as regards the application of minimum administrative sanctions in the framework of the system for the identification and registration of bovine animals. This Regulation sets down the sanctions to be applied to holdings not complying with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1760/00, which includes restrictions on movements of cattle from the holding.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 644/2005 laying down rules for a special identification system for bovine animals recognised by the competent authority as being kept for cultural and historical purposes on premises approved for that purpose by the competent authority.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 509/1999 concerning an extension of the maximum period laid down for the application of ear-tags to bison.

Keeping cattle and representing keepers

  1. Register a holding so that you can keep cattle

    • Detailed guide
  2. Get a herd mark for cattle

    • Detailed guide
  3. Register with the British Cattle Movement Service

    • Detailed guide
  4. Get and use bar code labels for your holding

    • Detailed guide
  5. Update your holding details

    • Detailed guide
  6. Links between cattle holdings (CTS links)

    • Detailed guide
  7. Register with CTS Online to represent cattle keepers as an agent

    • Detailed guide

Tagging, passports, record keeping and inspections

  1. Keep a holding register for cattle

    • Detailed guide
  2. Official cattle breeds and codes

    • Detailed guide
  3. Get new or replacement official ear tags for cattle

    • Detailed guide
  4. What to do after a calf is born

    • Detailed guide
  5. Get a cattle passport

    • Detailed guide
  6. Cattle passports: what to do if problems arise

    • Detailed guide
  7. Replace lost, damaged or missing cattle ear tags

    • Detailed guide
  8. Cattle identification inspections: what to expect

    • Detailed guide

Reporting and recording events in your herd

  1. Send cattle reporting information online or by phone

    • Detailed guide
  2. Report and record cattle movements

    • Detailed guide
  3. Get and use continuation sheets for cattle passports

    • Detailed guide
  4. Report and record cattle deaths on the holding

    • Detailed guide
  5. Send cattle to slaughter

    • Detailed guide
  6. Report and record the deaths of cattle at slaughter

    • Detailed guide
  7. Correct a cattle birth, movement or death error

    • Detailed guide
  8. Cattle without passports

    • Detailed guide
  9. Register cattle imported or moved into Great Britain

    • Detailed guide
  10. Report cattle exported or moved out of Great Britain

    • Detailed guide
  11. Report cattle movements on and off a showground

    • Detailed guide