Sheep and goats identification, registration and movement

This detailed guidance was withdrawn on 13 January 2015

This information is now out of date. For our current guidance please read guidance for keepers of sheep, goats and pigs.

How to register, tag and move animals safely between farm and market to bring down the risk of disease in transport.


Registration, identification, and accurate recording and reporting your sheep and goat movements supports traceability, helps to minimise the risk of disease transmission and maximise the possibility of controlling the spread during an outbreak.

Defra has produced a detailed plain English guide explaining the rules for identifying sheep and goats, and recording and reporting their movements.

The key requirements are described below. They apply whether you are a commercial keeper or if the animals are just pets.


If you are a keeper of sheep or goats you must:

  • Have a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for your land on which you will be keeping them (if you do not already have one). You can get this by phoning the Rural Payments Agency Customer Registration Team on 0345 603 7777. Customer Registration information is available on the Rural Payments Agency website. You should let them know that you will keep livestock on the land. If you are renting another person’s land for grazing that must similarly be registered with the RPA.

  • Contact the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to register the fact that you are keeping sheep or goats - within 30 days of them arriving on a holding for the first time. If you are uncertain whether the land has been used before to keep sheep or goats you can check with the AHVLA. You will be provided with a unique flock or herd mark. It will be shown on official ear tags used to identify your animals. It is stored on the national database which records livestock movements.


You must identify your sheep and goats within:

  • six months of birth if housed overnight
  • nine months of birth if not housed overnight
  • whenever they move off the holding of birth if this is sooner

If they will be kept 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 must be electronic.

If they are intended for slaughter within 12 months of age you have the option to identify them with a single ear tag (showing only your flock/herd mark).

There are many types to suit various breeds, sizes and ages of the animal. They include ear tags, a ruminal bolus, and pastern (leg band). Use of an injectable identifier (for double identified animals) may be authorized in the future.

On farm records (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
  • date of identification and deaths
  • annual count of animals on your holding as at 1 December each year
  • individual records of sheep and goats born or identified after 31 December 2009

To help you do this accurately Defra provides a sheep and goat holding register (Excel and PDF format).

You can record numbers either manually or electronically.

You can have individual animal details recorded at approved central recording points, ie markets or abattoirs, instead of by keepers as the animals leave the holding. If you choose this option you must include the individual animal information in your holding register within 48 hours of the animals departing your holding.

You can keep the register on paper or electronically as a book, file or spreadsheet. You must record the information in the same format and order as in Defra’s downloadable register. You need a separate holding register for each different holding if you keep sheep and goats in different holdings.

Sheep and goat identification and cross compliance and inspections

If you keep sheep and goats identifying them correctly and keeping accurate on farm records is a condition of payment under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) under EU cross compliance rules.

Unannounced farm inspections are carried out to monitor compliance as part of the cross compliance regime. What happens at an inspection is explained at Section 11 of the guidance for keeper’s booklet and on the RPA’s website. Inspections cover 3% of registered holdings comprising at least 5% of sheep and goats. Holdings are selected by risk analysis, the criteria for which are set out in the Regulation 1505/2006. Below are the most recent inspection results.

Reporting sheep and goat movements

When you move sheep or goats you must:

You must report sheep and goats movements by using the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS) either electronically or on paper - using the Arams-1 movement document.

An ARAMS helpline operates between 8am – 8pm Monday to Saturday.

Central Point Recording Centres

Central Point Recording Centres (CPRCs) allow for the individual IDs of electronically identified sheep and goats to be read on behalf of keepers sending sheep and goats to approved reading points, such as markets and abattoirs. CPRCs will provide a copy of this information to keepers for use in completing the movement information in their holding registers. Because of this, many keepers will not have to purchase electronic reading equipment. Further information on CPRCs.

Electronic identification (EID)

Since 31 December 2009 EID has been a requirement for sheep being retained for longer than 12 months of age which must be individually identified. It was introduced to help facilitate the recording and reporting of these animals’ movements in EU members States whose national flock exceeds a certain population threshold.

Most farmers will not need to purchase electronic reading equipment. They can read and record animal details manually if they choose or alternatively when they move animals to an approved Central Point Recording Centre (ie most markets) they will read individual animal numbers on the keepers behalf, instead of keepers having to read individual numbers as animals leave the holding.

Sheep and goat annual inventory

Keepers are required to keep an annual inventory in their holding registers and complete an annual inventory sent to them in late November. Summary details of all sheep (including rams and lambs) and goats under the farmer’s keepership must be recorded on this document. Failure to send the inventory back can result in an increased risk of an on farm inspection. The purposes for which the Inventory data is used are set out in full in a Data protection statement (PDF, 953KB, 2 pages) . For further information on the inventory call 01904 455284 or email


EC Council Regulation 21/2004 (on sheep and goat identification) and related regulations. The EU Commission’s technical guidelines for electronic identifiers and readers are:

UK Legislation

The requirements are enforced in England through The Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) (England) Order 2009 as amended by the The Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) (England) (Amendment) Order 2014. UK Devolved Administration’s equivalent legislation is available on the Government’s Legislation website.

Further information

Guidance for keepers in England: Rules for identifying sheep and goats

Cross compliance: guidance for 2014

Get a CPH number from the Rural Payments Agency

Data protection statement (PDF, 953KB, 2 pages)

Information for EU Member States (PDF, 517KB, 2 pages)

List of approved sheep and goat ear tag suppliers (PDF, 627KB, 11 pages)

General licence for movement of sheep and goats

Guidance for sheep and goat keepers – Movements to Showgrounds

Guidance on reading and recording EID requirements for slaughterhouses

Guidance for Local Authorities on the licensing of movements of livestock

Defra’s response to a study of sheep EID tags

RPA Customer Service Centre

0345 603 7777

Defra Helpline

03459 33 55 77

RPA Helpline

0345 603 7777

Defra Livestock Identification Helpline

0345 050 9876

Cross Compliance Helpline

0345 345 1302