Sheep and goat keepers: how to keep a holding register

Records you need to keep in a holding register including identifiers applied on your premises, animal movements and an annual inventory.

You’re a sheep and goat keeper if you have responsibility for the care and control of any sheep or goat. This includes those kept as pets or temporarily (for example at a market). You do not have to own animals to be a keeper.

As a keeper of sheep and goats, you must maintain a register of animals for each of your holdings, to record:

  • new or replacement identifiers applied to sheep or goats
  • movements of sheep or goats to and from your holding
  • deaths of sheep or goats (record the date and the individual identification number of the animal that died)
  • an annual inventory of the sheep and goats that are on your holding on 1 December

If you stop keeping sheep or goats

You must tell the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) within 30 days of no longer keeping sheep or goats.

Telephone the Defra Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301 and choose the relevant options for APHA. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm.

How to keep your holding register

You can keep your register:

You can download a sample sheep and goat register or order paper copies from the Defra helpline by quoting PB13281:

Telephone: 03459 335 577

If you use the ARAMS website to keep your register, it can automatically record your livestock movements to premises that also use ARAMS online (such as markets and abattoirs).

For example, when you send animals to a market that reports the move to ARAMS online, your ARAMS holding register can automatically record the tag numbers of the animals moved.

You’re responsible for the accuracy and completeness of your register. You’ll be able to correct any wrong information that’s recorded.

You must keep the register for 3 years after the last animal in it has left the holding. You must make it available to an inspector if asked.

How to record new and replacement identifiers in your register

For new identifiers, record the:

  • date you applied the identifiers
  • year of birth of the identified animal (if it was born on your holding)
  • breed and genotype of the identified animal if you know them
  • flock or herd mark for slaughter lambs or kids
  • individual identification number (for adult animals identified since 2010 only)

For replacement identifiers, record the:

  • date you applied the identifiers
  • details of the previous or surviving identifiers if you know them
  • flock or herd mark
  • individual identification number (only for adult animals identified since 2010)

When you apply tags with new identity numbers (rather than replicas) you must cross-reference the old and new identity numbers in the replacement section of your register. This is so that it’s clear they belong to the same animal.

Find out how to identify your sheep and goats.

Record moves in your register

Check the standstill requirements when sheep or goats arrive on your holding from another holding.

You must record any movement of sheep or goats to or from your holding in your register within 36 hours of the animals leaving or arriving, unless the movement is to or from:

  • a holding within 10 miles of your main holding that shares the same Country Parish Holding (CPH) number
  • common land that borders your holding, if your holding is linked to the common on Defra’s Animal Movement Licensing System (AMLS)

Contact the Defra helpline on 03459 335 577 to apply to link your holding to a common.

The requirement to record moves in your holding register applies to moves to any holding that has a different CPH number, even if the holding is within 10 miles and you own or rent it.

What to record

For movements of animals tagged before 2010, you only need to record the total number of animals moved.

For animals tagged after 2010 with 2 identifiers, you only need to record the total number of animals moved to either:

  • a holding where you’re still the keeper (this applies to movements between 2 holdings that you own or rent, but that have different CPHs)
  • a Central Point Recording Centre (CPRC)

You must record the individual identity number of each animal for movements of adult animals tagged since 2010 with 2 identifiers to any other location.

You only need to record the total number of animals moved, and the number from each flock or herd mark, for movements of lambs or kids intended for slaughter.

How to record a move to a CPRC

Central Point Recording Centres (CPRCs) are markets, abattoirs and collection centres that scan electronic identifiers (EIDs) of sheep when they arrive, and give you a list of identification numbers for your records.

If you send sheep to a CPRC you must record the total number of animals you move in your holding register within 36 hours of sending the animals.

The CPRC will give you the individual identity numbers of the sheep after they arrive. You must add these to your register within 48 hours of sending the animals.

Frequent moves to or from neighbouring holdings or fields

If you move animals to an adjacent or nearby holding that does not share your CPH there are fewer recording requirements, as long as the move meets all of the following conditions:

  • it’s frequent - this means you regularly move your animals several times a day or week
  • it’s by foot
  • there is no contact with other livestock
  • you’re still responsible for day-to-day care and control of your animals

Examples of such moves are regular moves to allow animals to graze in:

  • a neighbour’s field that shares a gate with yours
  • a field across a road

For these moves, you must use a ‘standing entry’ in the off-on movements section of your holding register to record:

  • that such a move takes place
  • the frequency of the move
  • the CPH numbers of the land the animals are moved from and to

You do not need to record how many or which animals are moved.

Record and submit your annual inventory

Each year you must:

  • update your holding register with the number of sheep and goats that are on your land on 1 December
  • complete an inventory of the sheep and goats you keep and return it by 31 December the same year

You’ll get a letter or email from Defra in November each year to tell you what to do for your inventory. You can complete it online, or send it by post. See the following sample versions for 2020:

Complete your inventory online

From the end of November, you can use the online sheep and goats annual inventory to send your records electronically. You must do this by 31 December.

Start now

Send your inventory by post

Fill in the paper form that Defra sent to you with your letter. Return it in the pre-paid envelope. It will be addressed to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

You must send your completed form to the ONS by 31 December.

Contact Defra

For the 2020 inventory, let Defra’s Farm Surveys Team know if you have not had a letter or email by 13 December 2020. You can also contact this team if you need help with your inventory.

Telephone the Defra Farm Surveys helpline on 03000 600 140 (Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm). Email

Published 1 June 2014
Last updated 27 November 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated the 'Record and submit your annual inventory' and 'Contact Defra' sections for 2020 submission.

  2. Updated the 'Record and submit your annual inventory' and 'Contact Defra' sections.

  3. Updated section ‘Frequent moves to or from neighbouring holdings or fields’ - defined frequent and added 'you’re still responsible for day to day care and control of your animals'.

  4. Contact details updated.

  5. Updated the 'Record and submit your annual inventory' section.

  6. Removed overview of standstill rules and linked to guidance with clearer rules. Added link to submit annual inventory online and who to contact if you need help with the inventory.

  7. First published.