Official ear tags for cattle, sheep and goats must undergo an approval process before they can be sold; suppliers must also be registered.
All sheep, goats and bovine animals (cattle, bison and buffalo, all referred to as ‘cattle’ below) in the UK must be fitted with ear tags of an officially approved type. Livestock keepers can only buy these official tags from a registered supplier.
Supply official ear tags
To supply official ear tags for cattle, or for sheep and goats, you must get an ear tag supplier’s number from the Ear Tag Allocation System (ETAS) support team at the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).
To begin the registration process, download and complete the application form for an ear tag supplier’s number (PDF, 43.6KB, 1 page) .
On this form, you must indicate if you will be supplying tags for cattle, sheep and goats, or all 3 species.
You must also read:
- the BSI Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) for official identification of cattle (PAS 44:2014) and/or sheep and goats (PAS 66:2014)
the Guidance notes to applicants for approval of cattle ear tags (PDF, 26KB, 4 pages) and/or Guidance notes to applicants for approval of sheep and goat ear tags (PDF, 24.6KB, 4 pages)
- the Cattle ear tag manufacturers/suppliers code of practice (PDF, 150KB, 8 pages) and/or Sheep and goat ear tag manufacturers/suppliers code of practice (PDF, 379KB, 16 pages) (you must sign this and submit it as part of your application)
Send your application form and signed code(s) of practice together to:
The Team Leader
BCMS ETAS Support
Get a new tag approved
To supply a new official ear tag for cattle, or for sheep and goats, you must:
- read the documents listed above
- get approval to proceed with testing from the ETAS support team
- arrange for welfare assessments and specification tests
- provide proof to the ETAS support team that your product meets EU regulations
Start an application to approve new ear tags
You must not submit tags to a UK-accredited laboratory for testing or carry out welfare testing until sample tags have been approved by the ETAS Support Team.
To request this approval to proceed with testing, send a written request and samples of each size and type of tag to:
BCMS ETAS Support
You need to include:
- a minimum of 6 samples of the tag, printed with a number in the correct format
- an ear tag applicator for fitting the tags
- your proposed quality control procedures
- instructions for inserting the tags, including images showing how the tag will be placed
- your proposed marketing literature for the tags
The ETAS Support Team will inspect the tags and tell you whether you can go ahead with the welfare assessment.
At your own cost, you must arrange for a welfare assessment at 2 farms under the supervision of a vet.
The welfare assessment must fulfil the following requirements:
|requirement||cattle||sheep and goats|
|period of assessment||21 days||3 months|
|number of animals per batch of tags on each farm||at least 25 calves||at least 50 sheep|
|location||calves at one farm enclosed (not at grass) and at the other with access to pasture||sheep at one farm on lowland and at the other on upland|
|age of animals at start of assessment||less than 20 days||less than 6 months|
|ear tag numbers||ETAS will allocate the number sequence and enter them in the system on your behalf||ETAS will allocate the number sequence to be used and you should access ETAS for a unique number sequence as normal and inform the ETAS Support Team|
|loss and replacement of tags||the assessment tags will take the place of the official tags for the duration of the assessment and are allowed to remain if the tag is approved; tags that fall out during the assessment should only be replaced with approved tags with the same unique number||the assessment tags will take the place of the official tags for the duration of the assessment and are allowed to remain if the tag is approved; tags that fall out during the assessment should only be replaced with approved tags and not assessment tags|
|veterinary assessment by the same vet||at insertion of the tags, 7 days after insertion and 21 days after insertion||at insertion of the tags, 3 weeks after insertion and 3 months after insertion|
At the end of the assessment, the vet will send you a report and will let you know if you can submit the tags for specification tests.
At your own cost, you must arrange for an ISO17025 -accredited laboratory to test the new tags against Publicly Available Specifications (PAS):
- PAS standards for cattle ear tags (PAS 44:2014)
- PAS standards for sheep and goat ear tags (PAS 66:2014)
You can find a lab through the UK Accreditation Service website.
When you receive the lab report, you must send a copy to the ETAS Support Team, who will inform you in writing within a month if your tags have been approved.
Get a modified tag approved
If you modify or adapt a previously approved UK ear tag for cattle, sheep or goats, you must have the tag approved by the ETAS support team before you can supply it commercially.
Send sample tags to the ETAS support team
The ETAS support team will examine your modified ear tag to determine if it needs further testing for approval.
Send a written request and a sample of the modified tag, with applicators, to:
BCMS ETAS Support
There is no specified maximum or minimum number of tags that you need to send. The ETAS support team will contact you if it needs more.
If the tag is approved
If the ETAS support team is satisfied with the tag, it will:
- write to inform you that your tag has been approved
- give you a new code for the modified tag
- discuss with you how the tag will be named in the database
If the tag is not approved
If the ETAS support team is not satisfied that your modified tag is suitable, it will contact you to tell you how you need to change it. You may need to arrange for laboratory and/or welfare tests to be carried out before the tag is approved.
Electronic identifiers for sheep and goats
There are extra testing requirements to certify the performance of electronic identifiers used to identify sheep or goats. Contact the ETAS support team for up-to-date information.
Tagging information for livestock keepers
Keepers can find information on the rules for identifying their animals at these links:
BCMS ETAS Support
BCMS helpline 0345 050 1234
Helpline for cattle keepers in Wales 0345 050 3456
For further information on supplying ear tags, including forms for access to ETAS and technical user guides.