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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lists-of-recognised-animal-breeding-organisations/guide-to-zootechnical-rules-and-standards
There are rules and standards you must follow if you trade purebred breeding animals, hybrid breeding pigs or germinal products like semen or embryos.
These rules apply if you’re a recognised:
- breed society for purebred breeding animals
- breeding operation for hybrid breeding pigs
1. Rules and regulations
The requirements of UK Animal Breeding legislation include:
- controls on activities of recognised breed societies - including periodic inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
- a zootechnical certificate for cattle, pigs, sheep and goats and a new equine certificate
- the need for all breeding organisations to create and publish a breeding programme for each breed they support
If your breed society or studbook trades with societies within the EU or Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, this is considered EU trade.
2. Official recognition
Breed societies and studbooks that are officially zootech recognised by Defra or the relevant devolved authority can trade purebred breeding animals and germinal products on preferable terms.
This means that animals and germinal products from recognised breeding bodies are treated the same in different countries.
Other countries currently include:
To become an officially recognised breed society, you must:
- keep a breeding book for your herd or flock
- publish a breeding programme for each breed you maintain
- have legal status - for example, be a limited company
- employ qualified staff
- operate efficiently - for example, handle and store information safely and manage complaints consistently
- have rules of association that govern membership - for example, rules against discrimination between members
- be able to check the recording pedigrees of the breeding animals
- have a sufficiently large population of breeding animals within the geographical territories
- be able to generate and use data collected on breeding animals, if appropriate
Defra or your local devolved authority will only grant official recognition for one society of each breed at any one time. This is to ensure the integrity of each breed is maintained.
Once your breed society is officially recognised you must keep your contact information, including email addresses, up to date. If your details change, email firstname.lastname@example.org
See the list of officially recognised UK breed societies.
2.1 Official recognition and trading
If a society is not recognised, you must not enter the animals or germinal products that it trades into the main section of your breeding book.
A breed society can have official recognition but not trade. Your society may choose to apply for official recognition to maintain confidence in the integrity of the breed they represent.
Officially recognised cattle breed societies are eligible for higher rate compensation under bovine TB legislation in England.
2.2 Official recognition and approved breeding programmes
To trade on zootechnical terms, you must be officially recognised and carry out one or more approved breeding programmes.
3. How to apply for official recognition
Contact your country’s devolved authority for an application form. This needs to be the country of your breed society headquarters.
3.1 Breed societies in England
Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 Marsham Street
3.2 Breed societies in Wales
EU Transition & Trade Policy
Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer
3.3 Breed societies in Scotland
Scottish Government: Agriculture, Rural Delivery Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare
3.4 Breed societies in Northern Ireland
Animal Identification and Welfare Branch
Veterinary Service Animal Health Group
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)
Ballykelly House, 111 Ballykelly Road
3.5 Refusal or withdrawal of official recognition
If your application for official recognition is refused, Defra or your devolved authority will tell you why. You’ll have up to 60 days from the date your application is refused to appeal.
If your application is still refused, it’ll tell you why within 90 days of when it received your request.
If your breed society or operation does not comply with the rules, the competent authority may:
- suspend or withdraw the breeding programme approval
- suspend issuing of zootechnical certificates
- order the breeding animals not to be entered into breeding books or registers
- order the breeding animals or their germinal products not to be recognised under zootechnical regulations
4. Entering UK animals into EU herd or flock books
To enter animals or germinal products into an EU breeding book, they must have either:
- an approved extended breeding programme in the UK
- a zootech certificate issued by a UK breed society listed by the European Commission and physically enter the EU
5. Controls on breed societies
The Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) carry out checks on breed societies in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). In Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will carry out these checks.
These checks make sure:
- zootechnical standards are applied consistently
- breed societies are aware of the standards they must meet to keep their official recognition status
- information is collected that helps protect breed genetics and can be used to resolve disputes
APHA or DAERA will:
- perform paper-based checks where possible and ask breed societies to confirm they comply with the necessary standards
- write to all officially recognised breed societies in GB to explain what information they need to provide
You may be asked to provide further information. If you do not provide it, your breeding programme could be suspended or your official recognition removed.
6. Checks when you import or export breeding animals
If you import live purebred breeding animals from outside the EU and ask for a lower duty rate, your zootechnical certificate will be checked at the border inspection post. This will be done at the same time as other animal health checks.
These checks do not apply to germinal products.
When trading and importing an animal into the UK, you can only enter that animal into the main section of your breeding book if it has a zootechnical certificate issued by a breeding body that is either:
- recognised within the EU
- listed as a third country breeding body
7. Breeding operations in the hybrid pig breeding sector
Defra can recognise all breeding programmes within hybrid pig breeding systems as breeding operations rather than breed societies.
Hybrid pig breeding systems include:
- breeding companies that have either no or a restricted number of breeders bound to it
- breeders’ associations and organisations
If you run a pig breeding business that does not have any members, you can apply to have your breeding operation recognised as a ‘private undertaking operating in a closed production system’.
These companies are exempt from some of the breeding programme rules. They do not:
- have to inform breeders of changes to the breeding programme
- need rules of procedure covering breeders or members
- have to register pigs or germinal products that are not part of the closed production system
- have to publish the results of genetic evaluations
Breeders also have no automatic right to participate in the breeding programme. For more information or to apply for recognition contact your country’s devolved authority.
8. Breeding books
Breed societies keep a breeding book that contains pedigree and identification information about the live breeding animals in that herd or flock.
You can enter an animal into the main section of the breeding book if:
- they’re kept on a holding in the UK
- their pedigree can be traced - they’re descended from parents and grandparents that were also entered in the main section of a breeding book of the same breed
- they are identified according to UK animal health laws - for example, ear tags for cattle and sheep
- they have a valid zootechnical certificate
You can enter horses and other equines into a studbook if their parents are in an equivalent studbook. You do not need to trace back to grandparents.
You can divide the main section of a breeding book into classes. However, at least one of these classes must be open to breeding animals that meet the minimum requirements. For example, they meet the breed characteristics criteria and are descended from parents and grandparents also entered into the main section of a breeding book for that breed.
You can have supplementary sections in a breeding book. Societies must explain the rules they use to classify and record animals in these sections in the breeding programme.
8.1 Supplementary sections in breeding books
Breed societies can add supplementary sections in their breeding book to allow breeding animals whose pedigree cannot be traced, to be part of the herd or flock. The offspring of these animals may become recognised as pedigree (and be ‘graded up’) over time if certain conditions are met.
8.2 Grading up
To enter an animal into a supplementary section of a breeding book it must:
- be identified using the herd book rules
- conform to the breed standard
- have minimum performance criteria as laid down by the herd book
You can only grade up the offspring of cattle, sheep, pigs and goats to the main section of breeding books through the female line.
If the animal’s ascendants were entered into the supplementary section, it can be entered into the main section if its:
- mother and maternal grandmother are recorded in a supplementary section of a breeding book for the same breed
- father and 2 grandfathers are recorded in the main section of a breeding book of the same breed
The offspring of this female and a male purebred breeding animal entered in the main section of the breeding book of the same breed can enter the main section.
As a result, fourth generation male offspring (of a female upgraded to the main section) are eligible to become graded up.
8.3 Horses: grading up
Horses and other equines can be graded up into the main section of the studbook if they meet the entry conditions set out in the approved breeding programme.
8.4 Endangered or hardy sheep breeds: grading up
Different rules can apply to certain endangered breeds or hardy sheep breeds. These make it easier to upgrade to the main section of the breeding book.
Animals descended from parents and grandparents recorded in the main or supplementary sections of a breeding book may be eligible for entry into the main section of the breeding book.
If you manage a breeding programme for endangered breeds or hardy sheep breeds and want to upgrade animals in this way, contact Defra or your devolved authority.
- show that there are not enough male purebred breeding animals of that breed available for breeding purposes
- have clear rules to explain grading up
9. Breeding programmes
Official breed societies must explain the breeding activities they carry out to achieve the aims of their society. For example, to improve or preserve a breed.
Breed societies must have a published breeding programme.
Breed societies must complete an application form to become officially recognised as a breed society and run an approved breed programme.
To get approval for your breeding programme, you must:
- provide information about the selection criteria
- explain the breeding objectives
- give evaluation criteria relating to the objectives
- state the country where the breeding programme will be carried out
- explain how you’ll identify individual breeding animals that meet the identification standards of the species
9.1 Purebred breeding animals: breeding programmes
Breeding programmes for purebred breeding animals must:
- aim to improve, preserve or reconstruct the breed - the programme can create a new breed or combine these aims
- include the name and detailed characteristics of the breed, including essential traits
- explain the system for recording pedigrees entered or registered and eligible for entry in the breeding book
9.2 Hybrid pigs: breeding programmes
If you run a breeding programme for hybrid breeding pigs and need further information about the requirements, contact your country’s devolved authority.
9.3 Breeding programme for new, reconstructed or at-risk breeds
If you establish a new, or reconstruct an extinct or near extinct breed, you must give a detailed explanation in the breeding programme. You should contact your country’s devolved authority for guidelines.
You must set up a new breeding book if none exists for your breed.
During a period of establishment (that has been agreed with your country’s devolved authority), a new breeding book can include:
- purebred breeding animals
- descendants from purebred breeding animals of a different breed
- any animal that meets the characteristics of the new breed
- any animal that meets the minimum performance requirements of the breeding programme
The breeding programme must:
- set a period to establish or re-establish the new breeding book - the period set must take account of the generation interval of the species or the breed
- refer to any breeding book the purebred breeding animals or their parents were entered in and include the original registration numbers
- identify animals considered to be the breed’s foundation or reconstruction stock
Once your establishment period of the new breeding book ends, your breed society will be subject to an official audit.
New and reconstructed breeds will be shown on the public list of breed societies.
Where a breed is in serious danger of disappearing, or has already disappeared, Defra may authorise you to use other animals in your breeding programme.
These animals may be:
- descendants of purebred breeding animals of the breed, purebred breeding animals or their descendants from other breeds that factor in the reconstruction
- any animal that meets the characteristics of the breed to be reconstructed - it must fulfil the minimum performance requirements in the breeding programme
10. Zootechnical certificates
Zootechnical certificates that breed societies issue must contain specific information about the animals or germinal products.
The certificates must include the:
- name of the issuing body
- name of the breeding book
- name of the breed
- sex and details about ascendants
- results of any performance tests - where relevant
The results of performance testing or genetic evaluation do not need to be entered on zootechnical certificates if the information is publicly available on a website. The website must be referenced on the zootechnical certificate.
The title of all zootechnical certificates must:
- indicate if the animal is a purebred breeding animal or a hybrid breeding pig, or germinal products from purebred breeding animals or hybrid breeding pigs
- include a reference to the taxonomic species
- indicate if the consignment is intended for trade or for entry into the EU
- include a reference to EU Regulation 2016/1012 - for those animals being traded into the EU
If you represent a breed society, you need to use the multi-species zootechnical certificates template. This certificate can be ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’ style. Find the templates in Regulation (EU) 2020/602.
The certificate must accompany any animal or germinal product that’s traded and entered into another breeding book.
10.1 Exporting to the EU: zootechnical certificates
If you export purebred breeding animals or germinal products to the EU, the animals must have a valid zootechnical certificate issued by either:
- a third country listed UK breeding body
- an EU or third country breeding body who has an approved extended breeding programme in the UK
Without a valid certificate, animals cannot be entered into the main section of equivalent breeding books in the EU.
10.2 Importing into the UK: zootechnical certificates
Breeding animals and germinal products imported to the UK must be accompanied by a valid zootech certificate to enable entry into the main section of your breeding book. Breed societies in third countries can only issue valid zootech certificates if they are third country listed.
You must not discriminate on country of origin when entering animals into the main section of your breeding book. Where eligible pedigree animals meet your breed criteria and have a zootechnical certificate, they must be entered into the main section regardless of their country of origin.
See breeding books for more information.
10.3 Cattle, pigs, goats and sheep: zootechnical certificates
You should use the template certificates for cattle, pigs, goats and sheep in EU regulation 2020/602.
There are separate certificates for:
- purebred breeding animals and their germinal products of the bovine, porcine, ovine and caprine species - see annex I
- hybrid breeding pigs and their germinal products - see annex II
- purebred breeding animals and their germinal products - see annex III
- hybrid breeding pigs and their germinal products - see annex IV
10.4 Equines: zootechnical certificates
For equines (for example, horses, ponies and donkeys), zootechnical information is part of the horse passport.
See the template horse passport in annex I of the Equine Passport regulation. You must complete the Certificate of Origin (section V) to give the relevant pedigree information using parts I and II of the zootechnical certificate in Regulation (EU) 2017/1940. There is a derogation that allows part II to be attached to the passport, and linked to part I, by entering the Unique Equine Life Number (UELN).
If your equine animal is being traded for entry into another studbook in the EU, they should also be accompanied by the certificate in annex III of EU Regulation 2020/602.
If your horse passport was issued by a studbook passport issuing organisation (PIO) in the UK, it is only valid for travel if that PIO is third country listed by the EU.
11. Trading with the EU
To trade with the EU on zootechnical terms, you must be:
- officially recognised and carry out one or more approved breeding programmes
- listed by the European Commission
11.1 Listing in the European Commission: list of UK breeding bodies
To trade on equivalent terms with EU or listed non-EU (third) country organisations you need to be listed as an approved third country body.
The European Commission keeps a list of breeding bodies in non-EU countries that meet certain requirements for their breeding programmes and society and studbook rules. Find the list of UK breeding bodies that have been listed by the European Commission.
If your breeding body is not listed and you want to apply, contact your country’s devolved authority. Once it has carried out checks and confirmed that you’re compliant and eligible for listing, Defra will submit your application to the European Commission.
11.2 Zootechnical trade with non-EU countries
Non-EU breeding bodies currently listed with the EU can import their purebred breeding animals and germinal products into the UK.
The UK maintains a list of breeding bodies based in non-EU countries that meet the zootechnical standards.
If you’re a UK breed society and want to import an animal from a non-EU breeder, you should check the breeder is a member of one of the listed breeding bodies. You can enter animals and germinal products from listed breeding bodies into your breed society’s breeding book.
12. Breeding programme extension
UK-based breeders and breed societies do not have access to the breeding programme extension. You cannot register animals that live in the EU in your breeding book.
EU and third country breeding bodies can extend a breeding programme into the UK, where there is not an approved breeding programme for purebred breeding animals of the same breed. EU competent authorities can submit an application to the UK government for approval.
Where an application has been approved, you can register your UK animals into the equivalent EU breeding book. Your UK animals (and any germinal products they produce) will remain as recognised pedigree animals. The EU breeding body will issue a valid zootechnical certificate.
The UK maintains a list of approved extended breeding programmes. If the breeding body is not approved by the UK then you cannot enter your UK animals into that EU breeding book.
13. Breeders in Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
You can enter animals located in NI into breeding books based in the Republic of Ireland if the breeding body in the Republic of Ireland has extended their breeding programme into NI.
You can only enter animals located in the Republic of Ireland into breeding books held in NI if they:
- have a valid EU zootechnical certificate issued by an EU recognised breeding body
- are moved onto a holding in NI
You need a zootechnical certificate for all pedigree breeding animals moving from GB to NI.