Replace lost, damaged or missing cattle ear tags

What to do if an ear tag gets lost or becomes unreadable, or you have bought an animal that is untagged or has non-approved tags.

All cattle have a unique identification number. It’s a criminal offence to transfer ear tags between animals or to reuse an identification number that was given to another animal.

It is also illegal to move or sell cattle which are not properly tagged with their unique number.

If you or a vet need to remove an official tag for any reason other than because it is damaged or illegible, you must contact BCMS to obtain permission before doing so.

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.

Animals born, imported or moved into Great Britain after 1 January 1998

These animals must keep their unique identity for life. You must get a replacement tag showing the same identification number and replace the lost or illegible tag with it.

Animals born, imported or moved into Great Britain before 1 January 1998

You can apply a single replacement tag showing the same number.

Alternatively you can:

  • apply a new single tag showing a new number
  • apply a new set of double tags showing a new number

If you apply a new single tag, or double tags, you must:

  • update your farm records to show the new number within 36 hours of retagging
  • return the passport and/or certificate of registration (COR) to BCMS with the new tag number within 14 days of retagging; BCMS will change the details and issue a passport

What to do if you buy an animal with missing or non-approved tags

If an animal you buy arrives with one missing tag, follow the procedure above to replace the tag. If an animal arrives without any ear tags you should not accept it onto your holding and contact BCMS for advice.

If you move cattle into Great Britain from within the EU they should already be double tagged. You need to apply for GB passports for these animals within 15 days of their arrival on your holding but you only need to retag them if a tag has been lost.

You must apply official UK tags to animals imported from countries outside the EU within 20 days of them leaving the border inspection post, and apply for passports within a further15 days. You must remove existing tags (you may need to consult a vet for this) and use approved ear tags. If necessary contact BCMS for advice.


British Cattle Movement Service

Curwen Road
Derwent Howe
CA14 2DD

Normal BCMS helpline opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm, closed weekends and bank holidays. All calls charged at local rate.

A Welsh version of this page is also available

Published 6 May 2014