Guide to cross compliance in England: 2016

SMR 7: Cattle identification and registration

Keepers must identify their cattle, including bison and buffalo. They must keep accurate records about their animals and notify cattle births, movements and deaths.

A. Identifying your animals with official cattle ear tags

Each animal needs one primary and one secondary ear tag, both showing the same unique individual identification number.

You cannot move an animal off a holding without the correct ear tags in place and without a passport (except in exceptional circumstances on welfare grounds, in which case you must apply for a movement licence by contacting the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS)).

Animal type Deadline for fitting first tag Deadline for fitting second tag Deadline for getting passport application to BCMS
Dairy Within 36 hours of birth Within 20 days of birth Within 27 days of birth
Beef Within 20 days of birth Within 20 days of birth Within 27 days of birth
Bison Within 9 months of birth or when separated from their mother, whichever is sooner Within 9 months of birth or when separated from their mother , whichever is sooner Within 7 days of birth

You must not apply an ear tag to an animal if it has previously been used to identify a different animal, or apply an ear tag to an animal if the ear tag number has already been used on a different animal. You must not remove an ear tag without permission from BCMS.

Replace a lost, damaged or illegible tag

You must get a replacement tag and fit it soon as possible, no later than 28 days after you notice the loss or damage.

For cattle imported from outside the EU

You must remove any original ear tags and replace them with approved UK ear tags, within 20 days of the animal leaving the border inspection post, or before the animal leaves the holding of destination, whichever is sooner.

B. Registering your animals – animal births and cattle brought in from outside Great Britain

When an animal is born you must apply for a cattle passport within the legal deadlines set out in the previous table.

If an imported animal is slaughtered within 15 days of arrival, you don’t need to apply for a GB passport.

If this isn’t the case, you must send BCMS an application for a cattle passport with the required supporting documentation.

You must apply using form CPP16, ‘Animals imported into Great Britain: apply for cattle passports’.

For cattle imported from inside the EU, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Northern Ireland

Within 15 days of the animal arriving at your holding, send the following documents to BCMS:

  • completed form CPP16 or CPP16W
  • any original EU passport that came with the animal
  • an export health certificate.

For cattle imported from outside the EU

Within 15 days from the date the animal must be tagged, you must apply for a passport by sending BCMS the completed form CPP16 or CPP16W and health certificate.

C. Movements and deaths

Cattle keepers can move animals as long as:

  • each animal has both of its official tags and a valid cattle passport
  • they comply with the general licence conditions in England
  • no standstills or other movement restrictions are in force.

Whenever you move cattle, you must:

  • update your holding register within 36 hours
  • tell BCMS about the movement within 3 days. If you use the post, rather than reporting online or by phone, bear in mind that this is the deadline for BCMS receiving the information, not for sending it
  • record the movement on each animal’s passport - before the animal leaves the holding (for off movements), or within 36 hours of the animal’s arrival on the holding (for on movements).

Animals without a passport and cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996 are subject to restrictions and you’ll need to get a special licence to move them.

What counts as a movement?

Whenever cattle move off one holding and on to a different one:

  • their keeper at the departure holding must report and record an ‘off movement’
  • their keeper at the destination holding must report and record an ‘on movement’.

A ‘holding’ above includes other farms, markets, abattoirs, showgrounds and collection centres.

Who reports movements and deaths?

You or your registered agent can report movements.

As a keeper, you are still legally responsible for movements being notified on time, even if you use an agent. You must report the death of any cattle on your holding. BCMS must receive the information within 7 days of the death.

You must also update your holding register within 7 days.

Reporting cattle deaths on your holding

You must either:

  • report online or by phone, then return the animal’s registration document (for example its passport) to arrive with BCMS within 7 days of the date of death
  • report by completing and returning the animal’s registration document (for example its passport) to BCMS within 7 days of the date of the death.

Report animals slaughtered on the holding

If an animal is slaughtered on your holding by a vet or abattoir operator and then taken to an abattoir for dressing, you must complete the death details section in the passport and send it with the animal to the abattoir. The passport must show that the animal died on the farm.

Lost or stolen animals

If an animal is lost or stolen, you must post the animal’s passport or certificate of registration and written details of what has happened within 7 days of becoming aware of the loss or theft.

D. Completing and maintaining on-farm records (holding register)

As a cattle keeper, you must keep a holding register for your cattle. The register includes specific information about each of your animals.

What to record in your register?

The register must contain the following details for each animal:

  • its ear tag number
  • its date of birth
  • its sex
  • its breed
  • the dam’s ear tag number for animals born on the holding
  • the date of any movement it makes on and off your holding (including movements to or from any other holding you occupy)
  • details of where it has moved from or to (record either the CPH number or the name and address of the keeper)
  • its date of death.

You must also record these events:

  • births
  • movements on or off your holding (even if you don’t have to report to the Cattle Tracing System, for example because the movement was to a linked holding)
  • deaths
  • replacement tags for cattle born before 1 January 1998, where the number is changed.

Deadlines for updating the holding register

You should complete your records as soon as you can after the event concerned. You must complete them within:

  • 36 hours in the case of movement on or off a holding
  • 7 days for the birth of a dairy animal
  • 30 days for the birth of all other cattle
  • 7 days of death
  • 36 hours of replacing ear tags where the identification number is changed.

How long to keep your records?

Holding registers must be retained for 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last entry was made. Other registers (eg those kept at markets) must be retained for 3 years from the end of that year.

More information

The extracts of information on this page have been taken from ‘Guidance on keeping cattle, bison and buffalo in Great Britain’.


Defra Livestock Identification Helpline: 0345 050 9876.
Rural Payments Agency: 03000 200 301
British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) helpline: 0345 050 1234