Get a cattle passport

All cattle, bison and buffalo must have passports, which are unique to the animal and stay with it for its entire life.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

All cattle registered on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) are issued with an identification document.

Depending on the age of the animal, it may have one of 3 types of cattle passport. There are 2 other types of cattle identification document. These documents are summarised in the following table.

Document name Reference Notes
Single-page passport CPP52 The newest type of passport; issued from 1 August 2011
Notice of registration CPP35 Issued if a cattle passport is refused; places certain restrictions on cattle movements
Chequebook-style passport CPP13 Issued before the single-page passport was introduced; it was issued to animals registered between 28 September 1998 and 31 July 2011
Old-style blue and green passport CPP1 Animals with this type of passport must also have a certificate of CTS registration; issued to animals registered between 1 July 1996 and 27 September 1998
Certificate of CTS registration COR or CHR3 Animals that hold this form of identification alone were born, imported or moved into Great Britain before 1 July 1996; they don’t have passports and aren’t expected to have them.

Deadlines for getting cattle passports

By law, you must apply for a passport when a calf is born or when you import or move an animal into Great Britain. You don’t need to apply for passports for animals imported or moved into Great Britain if they will be slaughtered within 15 days of arriving.

For cattle or buffalo, your passport application must arrive with the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) within 27 days of the birth of the animal. For bison, it must arrive within 7 days of the birth.

If you don’t apply in time, BCMS will refuse to issue a passport. An animal without a passport can’t leave the holding, except to go for disposal (it can’t go into the food chain).

See what to do if your application for a passport is refused.

If you’re worried that you haven’t left enough time to apply for a passport, you can contact BCMS for advice.

Costs of cattle passports

There is no fee for a cattle passport unless you’re replacing a passport that has been lost, stolen or destroyed.

How to apply for a cattle passport

You’ll need the calf’s:

  • ear tag number, made up of its herd mark, check digit and animal number
  • sex
  • birth dam’s ear tag number (ie the animal that gave birth to the calf)
  • genetic dam’s ear tag number, if different to the birth dam (if known)
  • date of birth
  • breed
  • sire’s ear tag number (if known)

You can apply for cattle passports online or by phone or by post.

You can also use an agent to apply.

You can read some tips on how to receive your passport quicker.

Apply using CTS Online

CTS Online will already hold details of your animal’s ear tag number so some information will already be available for you to select from a list.

For animals born after embryo transfer, if you don’t have the ear tag number of the genetic dam (the cow that produced the embryo), enter ‘embryo trans’ into the ‘genetic ID’ box.

When you’ve finished, you can print a receipt.

Apply using compatible farm software

You can apply for a cattle passport via CTS Web Services using an internet link from compatible farm software packages. The system will not give you a receipt unless you request one.

Apply by calling the CTS self-service phone line

You can call the automated CTS self-service line to apply for passports. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’ll get a reference number at the end of the call.

You can’t use the self-service phone line if the animal has:

  • a surrogate dam or sire
  • a dam with an alpha numeric ear tag number

Apply by post

When you order ear tags you’ll get matching applications for cattle passports (form CPP12), if you’ve told us that you intend to apply on paper forms.

You’ll need to use a postage method that’s fast enough to reach BCMS by the deadline of 27 days from birth.

Consider getting proof of posting or using recorded delivery when you send the form.

When you will get your cattle passport

If you apply online or by phone, BCMS aims to send out your passport within 3 days of receiving your application. For postal applications, BCMS aims to send the passport out within 7 days.

What to do when your cattle passport arrives

When you get your cattle passport, it’s your responsibility to check that the details are correct.

You must:

  • stick a holding address label (known as a bar code label) in the section ‘to be completed by the keeper on receipt of passport’
  • sign the same section
  • keep the passport safely

Note that the diamond-shaped image in the bottom right corner of the passport is heat sensitive and will fade when held between finger and thumb. This is a security feature so future keepers of the animal can make sure it’s the genuine document.

If the cattle passport is incorrect

If you find something wrong, you should return the passport immediately to BCMS giving details of the errors by either:

  • writing the changes clearly on the passport
  • including a covering letter with the passport explaining the changes needed

You can’t move the animal until you’ve received a corrected passport.

What to do once you’ve checked the passport

You must complete the section on the cattle passport headed ‘To be completed by keeper on receipt of passport’. You need to sign it and attach a bar code label.

You can use the ‘Space for other information’ for things like farm assurance stickers or TB information if you wish.

The slip along the bottom headed ‘For TSE testing’ applies to animals on or over 48 months of age, that die on the holding and go to be tested for TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, which includes BSE). Send this slip with the animal when it’s collected after death.

Who holds the cattle passport

The keeper (who will not necessarily be the owner), must hold all the identification documents for the animals they’re responsible for, including passports.

If the keeper changes, the passport must be given to the new keeper.


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.

Published 6 May 2014
Last updated 27 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. Link to 'Cattle passports: how to receive your passport quicker' added to 'How to apply for a cattle passport' section

  2. First published.