Guide to cross compliance in England: 2016

SMR 8: Sheep and goat identification

You must identify your animals and keep accurate records to allow movements of sheep and goats to be traced. In the event of a disease outbreak, it’s important that we know where animals have moved from and to.

What you must do

A. Identify your animals correctly

You must identify your sheep and goats:

  • within 6 months of birth if housed overnight
  • within 9 months of birth if not housed overnight, or
  • whenever they move off the holding of birth if this is sooner than the above.

If you keep them for longer than 12 months you must apply two identifiers (typically ear tags). Both will bear the same unique individual ID number. For sheep, one tag must be electronic.

Animals intended for slaughter within 12 months of birth can be identified by a single ear tag that shows your flock or herd mark, but no individual identification number for the animal.

You can replace single slaughter tags with either:

  • a replica of the lost or damaged tag that only displays your flock mark
  • a pair of adult tags with an individual identity number for the animal, as well as the flock mark

If you decide to keep a lamb beyond a year old, you must replace its single tag with 2 adult identifiers before its first birthday. If the lamb is no longer on the holding where it was born, you can only do this if you can trace the animal back to its holding of birth.

There are many types of electronic tags to suit various breeds, sizes and ages of the animal. They include ear tags, a ruminal bolus and pastern (leg band).

You must not:

  • alter, obliterate or deface any means of identification attached to an animal. However you may apply additional management information as long the legibility of the UK flock mark or UK unique individual identification number is not affected.
  • remove or replace identification without permission from Defra through BCMS

B. Lost tags

You must replace illegible, damaged or lost tags within 28 days of the illegibility, damage, or loss being spotted by you. Illegibility includes an electronic tag that will not transmit its number when scanned.

C. Completing and maintaining on-farm records (flock/herd holding register)

All sheep and goat keepers are required to keep a record of the following information:

  • your holding details
  • tag replacements
  • all sheep and goat movements on and off your holding
  • for animals identified from 2010
    • the tags applied (unique individual identification numbers for individually identified animals and the flock/herd marks for slaughter animals)
    • date of identification
    • year of birth (on holding of birth only)
    • month/year of deaths (where known)
    • breed and genotype (if known)
  • annual count of animals on your holding as at 1 December each year

To help you do this accurately, Defra provides a sheep and goat holding register. You can keep the register on paper or electronically as a book, file or spreadsheet.

You need a separate holding register for each different holding if you keep sheep and goats in different holdings.

You must keep your on-farm records up to date and for at least 3 years after the last animal in it has left the holding.

More information

All keepers should read and follow ‘Sheep and goats identification and recording: guidance for keepers in England’.

More information is available about ‘Sheep and goats identification, registration and movement’ on The Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS) website provides details about movement reporting for sheep, goats and deer within England:


Rural Payments Agency: 03000 200 301
Rural Payments Agency Livestock Identification Helpline: 0345 050 9876
Animal and Plant Health Agency: 03000 200 301
ARAMS movement reporting service: 0844 573 0137