What a cattle movement is, what you need to do before you move cattle, and when you must not move cattle.
Applies to England and Wales
There are rules you must follow when you move cattle on and off your holding.
You must carry out all of these actions so that cattle can be traced at all times. This is a legal requirement to prevent and contain the outbreak of disease.
If you fail to do this, you could get movement restrictions placed on your herd, reduced subsidy payments or be prosecuted.
What a cattle movement is
Moving cattle, bison or buffalo to and from your holding is called a ‘movement’.
A movement happens any time animals are moved on or moved off your holding. It can include moving them:
- to and from a different holding or farm
- to your holding when you buy or import animals
- from your holding when you sell or export animals
- to a slaughterhouse
- to and from a showground or market
Your holding is the land and buildings used to keep livestock, including livestock kept as pets. Each holding has a unique county parish holding (CPH) number. A livestock business may have more than one holding and CPH number.
A single livestock holding can cover the land and buildings within 10 miles of its main livestock handling area, for example:
- a farmyard
- your home (if you keep livestock as pets)
Before you move cattle
You must follow these steps before you can move cattle on to or off your holding.
Register as a cattle keeper
If this is the first time you’ll keep cattle, you must register as a cattle keeper with:
- Rural Payments Agency(RPA) - you’ll get a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for your holding
- Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) - you’ll get a herd mark to use on ear tags to identify your cattle
- British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) - so you can register births and deaths and get cattle passports
Keep a holding register
You’ll need to keep a holding register to record cattle births, deaths and movements. You must update this each time you move cattle on to or off your holding.
Read the ‘general licences’ for moving cattle
You should read and follow the conditions of the general licence for moving cattle in England or the general licence for moving cattle in Wales. The licences set out the legal requirements for moving cattle.
When you move cattle within England and Wales
You must record and report cattle movements so that they can be traced at all times.
You need to make sure that any animal you want to move has:
- the correct ear tags
- a valid passport or certificate of registration
- a movement licence, if the animal does not have a passport
You must also:
- update your holding register within 36 hours
- record the movement onto your holding in the animal’s passport within 36 hours of arrival
- record the date of the movement off in the animal’s passport before it leaves the holding
- report the movement to BCMS within 3 days
Read the guidance on how to record and report cattle movements.
There are different rules for recording and reporting movements when you import cattle or move them from Northern Ireland to England and Wales.
When you must not move cattle
There are some situations when you must not move your cattle. If you do, you could be breaking the law and you could get a fine or be prosecuted.
Cattle without passports
You must not move any live cattle, bison or buffalo without a full passport. Find out what to do if your cattle does not have a passport.
Cattle born in the UK before August 1996
You will need to get a movement licence to move cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996.
If your herd has movement restrictions
You must follow any movement restrictions placed on your whole herd or on individual animals.
If a restriction is put in place you will be given a notice that will tell you what you need to do to end the restrictions and any deadlines.
The ‘standstill’ rule
The standstill rule helps reduce the spread of infectious diseases. It applies to the movement of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
If you move cattle, sheep, or goats on to your land from a different holding, for 6 days after you must not move off your holding any:
If you move pigs on to your land from a different holding, you must not move any:
- cattle, sheep or goats off your holding for 6 days
- pigs off your holding for 20 days
Day 1 is the day after the animals’ arrival.
Example If a cow arrives on a Monday, day 1 is Tuesday and day 6 is Sunday. You can move animals of all species off your holding on day 7 - the following Monday.
You do not have to follow the standstill rule if you’re moving animals directly to slaughter, including to a red livestock market (slaughter-only market).
There are some other exemptions. Read the guidance on when you might be exempt from following standstill rules.
If you need help or advice, contact the Defra Rural Services helpline and choose the APHA option.
Movement restrictions when there’s a disease outbreak
Movement restrictions can be placed on herds when there is a suspected or confirmed outbreak of disease, such as bovine tuberculosis (TB) or avian influenza (bird flu).
You could be fined or prosecuted if you move cattle while there is a movement restriction in place because of disease.
Read the guidance on what you must do when:
- testing for bovine TB in your herd
- there’s a suspected outbreak of avian influenza - you’ll need to follow the ‘general licence for the movement of mammals’ rules
When you move cattle to or from Scotland
To move cattle from England or Wales to or from Scotland, you must follow the rules for reporting and recording cattle movements.
When you import cattle or move them from Northern Ireland
When you import cattle or move them from Northern Ireland to England and Wales, these will be movements onto your holding. What you need to do depends on where the animals are coming from.
When you move cattle to Northern Ireland or export them to another country
When you move cattle to Northern Ireland or export them to another country from England and Wales these will be movements off your holding. What you need to do depends on where the animals are going to.
Send cattle to slaughter
Sending your cattle to slaughter is a movement off your holding. Read the guidance on what to do when you send cattle to slaughter.
Slaughterhouse operators must record and report the movement of cattle onto their holding. If you’re a slaughterhouse operator, read the guidance on what you must do to record and report cattle deaths at a slaughterhouse.
Move cattle to and from a showground or a market
When you move your cattle to a showground or market you must record and report the movement off your holding.
If your cattle come back to your holding, or you buy cattle at the market you must also record and report the movement onto your holding.
The showground secretary or market operator must record and report the movement onto their holding and an off movement when the cattle are sold or returned to the holding it came from.
Read the guidance on how to record and report cattle movements.
Moving calves to market
You must not take a calf under 12 weeks old to market more than twice in any 28 day period. If you take a calf to market for the second time within 28 days you must have written documentation with the address of the previous market and the date on which the calf was brought there.
Market operators must check that a calf has not been to a market more than twice during the previous 28 days. If it has, the operator must record:
- the address of the market - even if it’s the same one
- the date or dates that the calf was at the market
Lost or stolen cattle
Read the guidance on what to do if your cattle are lost or stolen and what to do if you get them back.