Guidance

Sheep and goats: types and combinations of identifier

Find out how adult sheep and goats and lambs and kids intended for slaughter are identified, and colours reserved for different identifiers.

Sheep and goats in England can be identified by a variety of ear tags, pasterns (leg bands) and internal or external electronic identifiers (EIDs).

This guide explains what combinations are allowed.

Read the separate guide to identifying your sheep and goats, if you’re a keeper who needs to know when to apply identifiers, where to purchase them, or how to apply replacements.

Identifiers for adult sheep and goats

Adult sheep and goats (animals older than 12 months) must have 2 identifiers with the same unique individual identification number.

For sheep, one of the identifiers must be an electronic identifier (EID) if the identifiers were applied since the start of 2010.

Goats aren’t required to have an EID, but you can’t send goats to other EU states or export them beyond the EU without one.

Identifiers are typically ear tags, but 1 of the 2 identifiers can also be:

  • a pastern (leg band)
  • a bolus (an EID which is ingested by the animal and can be scanned)
  • an injectable EID, which is injected and can be scanned (goats only)

Adult sheep or goats can have any of the following identifier combinations.

EID Conventional (non-EID) identifier Animal can be exported?
Yellow EID ear tag Ear tag Yes
Yellow EID ear tag Tattoo (can go across both ears, with UK code and flock number on one ear and individual animal number on other ear) No
Yellow EID ear tag Pastern (leg band) Yes
EID bolus (identifier ingested by the animal) Black ear tag or pastern Yes
Yellow EID pastern (leg band) Ear tag No

Adult goats may also have any of the following combinations:

First identifier Second identifier Animal can be exported?
Conventional ear tag Conventional ear tag No
Conventional ear tag Tattoo (can go across both ears, with UK code and flock number on one ear and individual animal number on other ear) No
Conventional ear tag Pastern (leg band) No
EID injectable (groin) Black ear tag No

Information that appears on identifiers of animals with EIDs

If an adult animal has an EID, both the EID and the conventional (non–EID) identifier are labelled with the same 14 characters, eg UK 0 123456 54321.

The label is always 14 characters long.

For all labels, the first 3 characters are the same: ‘UK’ and then ‘0’.

The next 6 digits are a unique flock or herd mark, that indicate the flock or herd where the animal was identified.

The last 5 digits are the animal’s individual identity number.

The individual identification number is always 5 characters long, even if the animal is among the first identified in the flock or herd.

For example the seventh animal in flock mark 123456 would be labelled UK 0 123456 00007.

Information that appears on identifiers of animals without EIDs

For sheep and goats that don’t have an EID, both identifiers are labelled with the same details, which are between 9 and 14 characters long, eg UK 654321 7, or UK 654321 100001.

All tags start with the characters ‘UK’.

The next 6 digits are the unique flock or herd mark, that indicate the flock or herd the animal is from.

The last digits are the animal’s individual identification number, which can be between 1 and 6 digits long, depending on what number the animal is in it’s flock or herd.

For example the seventh animal from flock mark 654321, would be labelled UK 654321 7 if it didn’t have an EID.

Identifiers for lambs and kids intended for slaughter

If you intend to slaughter a lamb or kid (ie a sheep or goat that’s less than 12 months old), you can identify the animal with a single ear tag, instead of 2 identifiers.

The single ear tag only displays your flock or herd mark. It doesn’t display an individual identity number for the animal.

Slaughter ear tags are labelled in the 8 character format, UK 123456, where 123456 is the animal’s 6-digit flock or herd mark.

From the start of 2015, the single ear tag on slaughter lambs will be a yellow EID that contains an individual identification number which can be electronically scanned. The individual identification number won’t be displayed on the EID tag.

You can continue to use a single conventional (non-EID) ear tag for slaughter kids after 2015.

If you decide to keep a lamb or kid that’s identified by a single slaughter tag beyond a year old, you must replace it’s single tag with a pair of identifiers before its first birthday.

If the lamb or kid is no longer on the holding where it was born, you can only do this if you can individually trace the animal back to its holding of birth.

Colours reserved for different types of identifier

EID ear tags and pasterns must be yellow (unless they’re replacements applied on a holding other than the one where the animal was born, in which case they’re red).

EID ear tags should, where possible, be attached to the left ear.

Replacement ear tags applied on a holding other than the one where the animal was born must be red, unless they’re replicas, in which case they can be any colour.

Ear tags or pasterns on animals with bolus EIDs must be black and have a ‘B’ printed on them.

Ear tags on goats with injectable EIDs must be black and have an ‘I’ printed on them.

Other identifiers can be any colour apart from yellow, black or red.

Identifiers on animals brought to England

Welsh sheep and goats are generally tagged in the same way as in England. From the start of 2016 the single ear tag on lambs identified for slaughter in Wales will be a yellow EID.

EID tags applied to sheep in Scotland are usually but not always yellow.

In Northern Ireland, EID tags don’t have to be a specific colour.

Animals sent to England from elsewhere within the EU keep the same tags they had in their former EU state.

Animals imported to England from beyond the EU have a pair of red replacement tags applied at the English holding they’re sent to.

Published 1 June 2014