Animal identification, movement and tracing regulations
What you need to know in order to identify, trace and move your livestock and comply with current regulations
If you own a herd, flock or even a single animal of the most common livestock - such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, horses or pigs - there are rules that you must follow to stop the spread of diseases, particularly those caused by highly contagious viruses. The rules cover the identification, tracing and movement of livestock.
This guide outlines the information you need to on how to identify and move your livestock.
Livestock movement, identification and tracing
There are strict requirements that control the identification, tracing and movements of your livestock - which apply even if you have just one animal. Animal identification and traceability is important for disease control and public confidence in farm produce. The regulations that apply to your business depend on the livestock that you keep.
You must register any cattle you keep with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). You also need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for the land your cattle will be kept on - before you move them to the holding. If you have a new herd, you need to get a unique herd mark from your local Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).
For contact details of your local AHVLA Office use the postcode search tool on the Defra website.
Cattle must be identified with two approved eartags, both bearing the animal’s unique number, and any born after 1 July 1996 must be accompanied by a cattle passport.
You can only move your cattle in accordance with the general licence for the movement of cattle, and must inform the British Cattle Movement Service within three days of any cattle movement. Download the General licence for the movement of cattle You should check for foot and mouth symptoms before any movements. If you do find evidence of such disease, you:
- must notify the Regional Veterinary Lead without delay
- are not permitted to move any animal kept on the premises of departure under the general licence
You must record any movement of your cattle - between farms or to slaughter - on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS). This is a computer based system which records identification, deaths and movement of cattle. It allows Defra to:
- check animals on a holding
- trace animals at risk of disease
- check where an animal has been
Find information on the CTS on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website.
For more information on moving cattle, read cattle identification, registration and movement.
Sheep and goats
Rules for sheep and goats are similar to those regarding cattle. You must register with Defra and apply to the RPA for a CPH before moving stock to your holding. You can then move your sheep and goats under the general licence for movement of sheep and goats, however, you must report their movement using the Report of sheep and goat movement made under a general licence (AML 1) form.
You must use electronic identification (EID) to aide tracing of sheep. EID replaces the double tagging rules for sheep and allows the animal to be identified through an electronic identifier. EID is not compulsory for goats, though you must still record them on a holding register.
For more information, read Sheep and goats identification, registration and movement
You must register your pigs with Defra by contacting your local AHVLA office and supplying them with your CPH. You can obtain a CPH from RPA.
Before moving pigs you must apply your individual herd mark to them by:
- slapmark - a permanent ink mark of your herd mark, applied to each front shoulder area of the pig
- eartag - stamped or printed, not handwritten, containing the letters ‘UK’ followed by your herd mark
- tattoo - of your herd mark on the ear of the pig
- temporary paint mark - eg a red line, black cross or blue circle - which must last until the pig reaches its destination
When moving pigs, you must comply with the general licence for the movement of pigs. You must complete an AML 2 movement document before you can move your pigs. You must record their movement within 36 hours and retain the document for six months after the move.
For more information, read Pigs: identification, registration and movement.
There are also specific rules regarding movement, identification and tracing of deer and horses. For information on deer, read Deer farming: health and welfare.
Animal movement and licensing
To control animal movement and to ensure the location of an animal can be easily identified, all livestock must be moved under a licence. There are four general licences and each one sets out mandatory rules on:
- cleansing and disinfection
- scheduled stops
- animal identification
- the movement standstill period
There are some standard rules for all general licences, which stipulate that:
- you must check for foot and mouth disease before you move any animal and inform the local AHVLA office if evidence of the disease is found
- vehicles used for the transport of animals must be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with animal transport regulations
- multiple pick-ups and drop offs of animals is permitted for movements under the licences
- you may transport more than one species of animals
- animal identification must comply with the relevant identification regulations
However, the licence that specifically applies to you will depend on the livestock that you are intending to move.
Pregnancy and other exceptions to using a general licence
You are not permitted to move female livestock or animals, or use the general licence to do so, if the animal is in the final 10 per cent of its gestation period, or has calved within the week prior to the planned movement. Such animals are not considered fit for transport, or for presentation at market. To find other instances where the general licences cannot be used, you can find guidance on Live transport: welfare regulations.
The General Licence for the Movement of Cattle allows all movements of cattle, apart from:
- between markets
- market to collecting centre - or collecting centre to market
- between collecting centres
In addition to the standard rules and types of movement, the licence also covers:
- standstill rules - if you move cattle on to a holding, you must wait 6 days before moving cattle, sheep, goats or pigs off the holding
- scheduled stops - these are allowed, though you must not transfer any animal between vehicles at these stops
- notification - you must notify the British Cattle Movement Service within three days of moving cattle under a licence
Download the General licence for the movement of cattle
The General Licence for the Movement of Pigs contains the same provisions as the General Licence for the Movement of Cattle, except the standstill rules.
If you move pigs on to holding, you can’t move:
- pigs off your holding for 20 days
- other livestock (eg sheep, goats, cattle) off your holding for 6 days, except deer
You can find the General licence for the movement of pigs
Sheep and goats
The General Licence for the Movement of Sheep and Goats also has many similar conditions to the movement of cattle licence - eg types of movement permitted, the standstill rule, and scheduled stops.
The main difference between the licences is the movement reporting requirements. You must report all movement of sheep or goats to Defra using the relevant movement document. There are additional report forms to complete if you are moving animals:
- from an artificial insemination centre
- to market from a standstill - only applies to breeding rams
- intended for the purposes of breeding
The General Licence for Movement of Deer covers the following important provisions:
- movement permitted - all deer may be moved but
- standstill rules do not apply to deer
- scheduled stops are allowed, but you must not transfer any animals between vehicles
- movements must be reported using form AML 24 and all movements must be accompanied by a movement document
For more information, read Movement, identification and tracing of deer
Animal Movement Licence Forms
There are different forms you must complete depending on the animals you are moving, and where you are moving them to or from. An AML 1 is an animal movement report document which must be used to move your sheep and goats onto and off your holding. An AML 2 is an animal movement report document which must be used to move your pigs onto and off your holding.
You must report all livestock movements to your local authority so the details can be entered onto the Animal Movement Licensing System (AMLS). This is a national database that allows farmers, local authorities and government departments to easily trace livestock movements. You can access the AMLS2 database on the Defra website (registration required).
Livestock movements, identification and tracing legislation
There are several general regulations that cover animal gatherings, transport and disease control. They are related to livestock movement restrictions and the times required before animals can be moved onto or away from holdings in order to eliminate the potential spread of disease. These are:
- The Animal Gatherings (England) Order 2010
- The Transport of Animals (Cleansing and Disinfection) (England) (No.3) Order 2003
- The Disease Control (England) Order 2007
- The Disease Control (England) (Amendment) Order 2008
Cattle are covered by several pieces of European Union legislation. The regulations include:
- creating a system for cattle identification and registration through the use of double ear tagging, cattle passports, a fully operational computerised database and up-to-date farm registers
- developing a compulsory labelling system for all beef and beef products
- forming a minimum system of controls for spot inspections of British cattle holdings
- establishing time and reporting limits for cattle registration and ear tagging
Deer are covered by their own legislation, including regulations for tuberculosis, movement and welfare. The regulations include:
- The Tuberculosis (Deer) (Amendment) Order 1993
- The Tuberculosis (Deer) Order 1989
- The Movement of Animals (Records) (Amendment) Order 1989 (as amended)
- Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (as amended)
When moving deer, you must hold a relevant licence and comply with the General Licence of the Movement of Deer. If your deer have been tested for bovine tuberculosis you must make certain that they are tagged appropriately.
Download form AML 24 to report a deer movement
Pigs are covered by legislation for record keeping, identification and movement, and disease control with regard to nucleus herds, nucleus/multiplying herds and multiplying herds. These regulations are:
- The Pigs (Records, Identification and Movement) Order 2007
- Disease Control (Interim Measures)(England) (No.2) Order 2003 (as amended)
Sheep and goats
Sheep and goats are also covered by legislation regarding record keeping, identification and movement - the Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) (England) Order 2009.
Registering your pigs, sheep and goats
To register pigs, sheep and goats, you first must obtain a CPH number for the land where the animals will be kept. The CPH number is nine digits long. The first two numbers are for your county, the next three are related to the parish and the last four are unique to you as the keeper of the animals. You can apply for your CPH by calling the RPA on 03000 200 301.
Once you receive your CPH number, your animals can be moved to your holding under a general licence. You’ll then need to register your herd or flock with Defra by contacting your nearest AHO by telephone, using your CPH number as a reference. Your livestock will then receive a flock or herd mark to identify them. The flock or herd mark makes it easy to trace the holdings the livestock have been moved from.
For contact details of your local AHVLA Office use the postcode search tool on the Defra website.
If your details change for any reason, you must tell your AHVLA office within one month of the change.
Electronic identification for sheep and goats
EID is mandatory for sheep. EID is not currently mandatory for goats because their population falls below the 160,000 threshold. However, goats will still need to be individually recorded on holding/movement documents.
If your sheep are housed overnight, they must be identified within six months of birth. If they are not housed overnight, then they must be identified within nine months of birth. In both cases, the animals must have one electronic identifier and both tags have to bear the same individual identification number.
If they are not intended to be kept beyond 12 months of age, then a single non-electronic tag must be used. It can be electronic if desired.
For further information on electronic tagging, you can call the BCMS Helpline on Tel 0345 050 1234.
You must individually record sheep and goats born after 31 December 2009 in a movement document. However, you can continue to keep batch records for any slaughter animals and those born before 31 December 2009.
From 31 December 2011, you will have to individually record older animals - ie those born before 31 December 2009 - unless they are being moved to slaughter.
Further information on animal identification and tracing
Several organisations offer support and advice to farmers about animal identification, movement and tracing.
Defra aims to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible. Defra administers European support policies that provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture. They also oversee a number of agencies that work with farmers, regulate imports and exports of crops and implement pest and disease controls. You can call the Defra Helpline on Tel 08459 33 55 77.
The AHVLA is a government agency responsible for ensuring that farmed animals in the UK are healthy and well cared for. Working together with local authorities, AHVLA officers - who are based in AHVLA offices - carry out farm inspections to enforce farmed animal welfare law.
For contact details of your local AHVLA Office use the postcode search tool on the AHVLA website.
Local authority and AHVLA animal welfare enforcement powers include:
- emergency powers in relation to animals in distress
- powers of entry and inspection - including the power to seize documents
- prosecution powers
- the authority to serve improvement notices
It is an offence to obstruct an inspector in the course of their duty.
You will come into contact with local authorities over a number of animal welfare, movements, farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.
In England, the Farm Advisory System advises farmers about cross compliance. For further information, call the Cross Compliance Helpline on Tel 0345 345 1302. Alternatively, find information on cross compliance requirements on the Cross Compliance website.
Natural England is another Defra agency that works to ensure sustainable use and management of the natural environment. It hosts events around the country, including cross compliance farm walks and farming drop-in clinics.
The RPA is responsible for licences and schemes for farmers as well as for running the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). For more information about SPS and how it can help your farming business, you can call the RPA Helpline on Tel 0345 603 7777.
You can also see our guide on the SPS.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.
Deer farming: health and welfare
Cross Compliance Helpline
0345 345 1302
0345 603 7777
0345 050 1234
03459 33 55 77
Published: 23 August 2012
Updated: 19 April 2016
- Fixed six day rule error (standstill rules).
- Corrected sentence about who issues the animal movement licences, and removed the incorrect section about what Defra uses the information for.
- Slightly amended paragraph under Electronic identification for sheep and goats
- First published.