Cattle identification inspections: what to expect

Inspectors may visit your holding to check that you’re following the rules for cattle, bison and buffalo identification and record keeping.

Applies to England and Wales

By law, the livestock inspectorates of England and Wales must carry out cattle identification inspections.

Inspectors will check that you are following the rules for identifying cattle and keeping records. Errors can put you at risk of penalties and reductions to subsidy.

An inspection might include an examination of:

  • the cattle on your holding, their ear tags and passports
  • your holding register
  • your unused ear tags

Inspections will occur without notice or at short notice.

How farms are chosen for inspection

The inspectorate checks at least 3% of holdings annually. 20% of those holdings are chosen at random and 80% are selected according to risk (inspectors are more likely to visit holdings where they have found problems before).

What you need to do for an inspection

The inspector will check the cattle currently on your holding or holdings.

You must let the inspector see all the documents and records that they ask for. It is against the law not to have documents available for inspection. You will need:

  • your holding register (on paper or on a computer)
  • all animal passports and registration documents

Make sure the inspector can safely inspect your animals. You must provide suitable handling facilities and people to gather the cattle. You’ll be responsible for the animals’ welfare during the inspection.

At the end of the inspection the inspector will ask you to sign a form containing details of the visit and will leave a copy with you.

If you obstruct the inspector, your whole herd will be restricted and any subsidy payments due to you may be at risk.

Obstruction includes:

  • refusing to allow the inspection to happen
  • failing to gather animals for inspection
  • not providing adequate handling facilities and labour
  • failing to present holding register and passports
  • abusive or aggressive behaviour

How long it takes

The inspector will carry out the inspection as quickly and efficiently as possible, and with as little disruption to you as possible. How long an inspection takes depends on the size of your holding, how many cattle are involved, and how clear and accurate your records are.

If your holding needs inspections for subsidy payment schemes, as well as cattle identification, inspectors will try to carry them out at the same time.

What the inspector will check

The inspector will check several things, including that:

  • your holding register shows which animals are or have been on the holding
  • you have recorded all births, movements and deaths correctly
  • all animals are correctly tagged and their tags match their identification documents
  • you have all identification documents are they are correct
  • you have met the deadlines for identifying cattle and keeping records
  • you have passed all identification documents for animals that have moved or died to the new keeper or returned them to BCMS
  • you are storing all unused ear tags securely

If problems are found

If the inspector finds a problem with any cattle passports (for example, the wrong sex has been entered), they will collect those passports from you and give you a receipt.

If BCMS can correct the passports, it will do so and return them to you free of charge. You should check them carefully when you receive them. If you have not received them within 4 weeks of the inspection, contact BCMS.

If the inspector finds unidentified animals, you will get a Notice to Prove Identity and Traceability (CPP30/CPPS30). Until you’ve proved their identity, you cannot move them off your holding.

You will also be asked to fit BCMS management tags to the animals. If the identity of the animal cannot be proved and evidence supplied to support this, you may get a Notice of Removal for Compulsory Slaughter (CPP31/CPPS31).

A notice of compulsory slaughter means the animal will be destroyed, you will not get compensation and BCMS may charge you for the costs.

Problems with less than 20% of your herd or records

If the inspector finds discrepancies between tags, passports and records or reporting failures that affect less than 20% of your herd, they may put a movement restriction on the individual animals involved.

The inspector will either take the passports away to be corrected or give you a movement restriction notice (form CPP27/CPPS27) describing what you need to do.

In either case, it’s an offence to move the animals off your holding until the passports are returned or the restriction is lifted.

As soon as you have taken the required action you must inform BCMS. BCMS will carry out administrative checks and confirm if the restriction has been lifted. An inspector may return to check the animals are correctly identified.

Problems with more than 20% of your herd or records

If the inspector finds discrepancies between tags, passports and records or reporting failures that affect more than 20% of your herd, they will give you a movement restriction notice for your whole herd (CPP28/CPPS28).

The notice will:

  • list all the animals on your holding
  • state whether the restriction applies to movements both on and off the holding or only to off movements
  • state what you need to do to put things right

You will also get a letter from BCMS confirming what you need to do to lift the movement restriction.

It is an offence to move animals while they are subject to the movement restriction.

When 80% of your cattle meet the regulations, you must either:

  • notify BCMS
  • submit a notice of compliance form (CPP29/CPPS29)

If you are not sure whether you have reached the 80% level, contact BCMS, who can check for you.

BCMS will then send you a letter:

  • confirming that the whole-herd restriction is lifted
  • listing any animals with discrepancies that are still restricted to your holding

An inspector may revisit your holding to check that you have taken the right action. If you give any false information to lift a movement restriction, further action may be taken against you.

Animal welfare

If the inspector believes you are breaking animal welfare standards, they will report this to the local authority, which has responsibility for enforcing welfare rules.

You could also be breaking cross-compliance rules, risking a reduction to any payments you receive under subsidy schemes.



You could face legal action over problems found at an inspection. If a court finds you guilty of an offence, it may set severe penalties, including fines of up to £5,000 for each animal. In the worst cases, the court can also issue prison sentences.

Payment reductions

If the inspector finds problems, you could face penalties and a cross-compliance reduction to any subsidy claims you have.

You can access more detailed information on cross compliance in England and Wales.

Contact BCMS

British Cattle Movement Service

Curwen Road
Derwent Howe
CA14 2DD


BCMS helpline 0345 050 1234

Helpline for cattle keepers in Wales 0345 050 3456

Normal BCMS helpline opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm, closed weekends and bank holidays. All calls charged at local rate.

You can also speak to an advisor on webchat. Webchat is only available in the English language at the following URL:

Published 6 May 2014
Last updated 4 October 2021 + show all updates
  1. This guidance has been updated to show it no longer applies to Scotland.

  2. First published.