Cattle identification and traceability is vital to enable efficient and effective disease control and to protect public health. In the event of a disease outbreak, it is important that movements can be traced easily from birth to death.
To ensure this level of traceability is achieved, all cattle are required to be correctly identified and issued with a corresponding passport in accordance with current legislation.
The UK government offers guidance on cattle identification and traceability.
All cattle keepers must keep a holding register showing births, movements and deaths for cattle, bison and buffalo they are responsible for. Holding registers can be downloaded.
Visit the Rural Payments and Services website for detailed information on cattle inspections in Scotland.
There are a number of steps you need to take before you move cattle onto your holding in order to operate within the requirements of the law:
- Firstly, you must register your holding with the Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) through your local office. They will give you a County Parish Holding (CPH) number which is a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept - this is used when reporting and recording animals moving on to or off your holding.
- You must then inform your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office who will give you a herd mark for your holding. The herd mark means you will be able to buy ear tags for your cattle.
- A further requirement before you move cattle is you need to inform the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) and they will then record your details on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) and send you information. Movement of cattle within a business should be notified to ScotMoves.
All cattle born after 1 July 2000
- must be identified with a numeric eartag in each ear (this is compulsory)
All cattle born after 1 January 1998
- must have an approved eartag in each ear (double tagging)
- each eartag must have the same unique number
- animals will be identified by this unique number throughout their lifetime
All cattle born or imported into Great Britain before 1 January 1998
- may continue to be identified by a single tag bearing the same number
- may be identified by a single tag bearing a new number (in this case records must be amended and all documentation returned to BCMS for amendment)
- may be identified by a new set of double tags (in this case records must be amended and all documentation returned to BCMS for amendment, and subsequent replacements must bear the same number
When to tag
Calves must be tagged within the following deadlines:
- Beef cattle: an approved eartag should be fitted in each ear within 20 days of birth or before it moves of the holding where it was born if that is before it is 20 days old
- Dairy cattle: must have at least one eartag fitted within 36 hours of birth. Up to 20 days from birth are allowed in which to fit the second tag. Both tags must be fitted before it leaves its holding of birth if that is before it is 20 days old
Double tagging requirements
The tags used for double tagging are known as the primary and secondary tags.
- the primary tag which may be inserted in either ear, must be made of yellow plastic and be at least 45mm in height and 55mm wide. The characters must be a minimum of 5mm high. It must bear the GB symbol of a crown, the letters UK and the unique identification number
- the secondary tag must be in a different ear from the primary tag. It can be made from a range of approved materials and types, including metal, button and other plastic types. It may also contain management information.
If an animal loses a tag or if it becomes illegible it must be replaced no later than 28 days after you notice the loss. Lost or illegible tags on animals born or imported after 1 January 1998 can only be replaced with a tag showing the same number, as the animal must retain its unique number for life.
Bison: the only exception to these timescales is bison. You can tag them within nine months of birth, but they must be tagged before leaving the holding of birth or when separated from their mother, whichever is sooner.
Keepers of cattle must order eartags from one of the Defra approved eartag manufacturers.
Defra approves eartags on behalf of the UK. The manufacturer will notify the Government's Eartag Allocation System (ETAS) of the order and will then be allocated sequential numbers for each tag.
The sequential numbers are based on the keepers individual herd mark which is then cross referenced to the unique farm code (CPH).
Keepers should limit their orders for eartags to a maximim of one years' supply.
All cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a cattle passport. This applies whether the cattle are male, female, dairy or beef and also applies even if the animal is still on the holding on which it was born. A cattle passport must remain with an animal throughout its life.
Cattle passports enable the movement of animals to be traced; buyers and inspectors can see at a glance where an animal has been throughout its life.
You can apply for a cattle passport using the BCMS website, CTS online.
There are five types of cattle identification documents in Great Britain, which are all vaild:
- A single-page passport (CPP52) can be printed from 1 August 2011. If you have newborn or imported cattle, or your original identification document needs to be reissued, you will receive a single-page passport (CPP52). An example of this passport can be found on the Rural Payments Agency website
- If a cattle passport is refused we will issue a notice of registration (CPP35)
- Animals registered between 28 September 1998 and 31 July 2011 have a chequebook style passport (CPP13)
- Animals registered between 1 July 1996 and 27 September 1998 have an old-style (blue and green) cattle passport (CPP1). These animals must also have a certificate of CTS registration (COR or form CHR3), which can be used to report movements
- Cattle born or imported into Great Britain before 1 July 1996 have certificates of CTS registration (COR or CHR3). These animals do not have passports, and we do not expect them to have one
Keepers of cattle must ensure that passport applications are made within the time limits allowed and ensure that movement records, both in the passport and in registers are kept up to date.
It is a legislative requirement that keepers must record in their Holding Register details of all cattle births, deaths and movements on and off the holding.
The following information is the minimum that should be kept in the farm register for each animal:
- eartag number
- date of birth
- identity of genetic dam
- date of death of animal on the holding
- date of movements on and off your holding, and
- details of where the animals had moved to or from
The record requirements laid out in Regulation 8, Schedule 4 of The Cattle Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2007. In accordance with Regulation 8, Scedule 4, 3(1) of the Cattle Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2007, registers must be kept by farms for 10 years and for three years in any other case (e.g. markets) from the end of the last calendar year in which the entry was made.
Registers must be completed within the following deadlines:
- 48 hours in the case of movements "on" or "off" a holding
- 7 days for the birth of a dairy animal
- 30 days for the birth of cattle not in a dairy herd
- 7 days for a death
- 36 hours for replacement eartags
Inspections are carried out by the Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID). Details of these inspections can be found at the Rural Payments and Services website.
From 1 January 2017 CTS Links were replaced with a new system called ‘ScotMoves'.
ScotMoves complies with the EU regulatory requirements and reduces the risk of disallowance from the CAP fund. The new system also gives Scottish Government access to all cattle movement data in Scotland and provides a central record of all cattle locations in the event of a disease outbreak.
ScotMoves allows you to move cattle within your business without reporting the movements to the Cattle Tracing System (CTS). The ScotMoves system does not require any additional information to be recorded other than those moves you are already recording in your holding register. The only difference is where you are recording the information.
You must register with ScotEID if you wish to use ScotMoves. The application is only valid for 364 days and must be renewed annually. You can update or amend the registration at any point during this time.
The use of ScotMoves is not mandatory. If you do not wish to use the ScotMoves system the alternatives are:
- you can report all moves through CTS online
- you can, where possible, amalgamate all land you use on a permanent or long term basis that is within the 5 mile CPH rules
Different movements require different people to report the movement
Farm to farm movements (outwith your main business):
consigning keeper reports off-movement from their farm
receiving keeper reports on-movement to their farm
- alternatively, movements can be reported by an agent or agents acting on behalf of the consigning or receiving keeper
Scottish live auction sales - 4 way movement reporting system
All Scottish markets report the following movements, including the 'off farm' and the 'on' movements on your behalf. Markets will however, only report movements to a keepers main CPH number. Any movement thereafter that you want to make within your 'business' you can make using the ScotMoves system. You can also contact the ScotEID office for advice.
Markets therefore report the following:
- off-movement from consigning keeper's main CPH
- on-movement to market
- off-movement from market
- on-movement to receiving keeper's main CPH
Direct to slaughter - farm to abattoir
Scottish abattoirs report electronically both the 'off farm movement' and the 'on abattoir movement' on behalf of Scottish cattle keepers. You should check that your abattoir is reporting movements for you. If they are not you must report the off-movement using CTS Online, telephony, e-mail (SIS) or by sending a movement card to BCMS. The abattoir is still responsible for reporting the on-movement.
On-farm auction/video sales/sales other than at live auction sales
You must make sure that all movements are notified to BCMS. This can be carried out by an agent or agents acting on behalf of the consigning or receiving keepers but if not, the keepers involved must notify movements using CTS Online, email (SIS) or by sending movement cards.
Agricultural shows - farm to showground to farm
Show secretaries are responsible for reporting movements 'on' and 'off' the show ground. Some secretries have agreed to also report the 'off' farm and 'on' farm movements. You need to check and, if this is not being done, you must notify BCMS of each 'off' and 'on' farm movement using CTS Online or by sending a movement document.
Movement restrictions on cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996
All cattle born or reared in the UK before 1 August 1996 are subject to movement restrictions as an extra precaution against meat from these older cattle entering the food chain (milk from such animals can be sold for human consumption). Further Information is available on movement restrictions on cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996 on the APHA website.
Cattle born or reared in the UK before 1 August 1996 are permanently excluded from the food chain and it is illegal to send them for slaughter for human consumption. At the end of their productive lives, they must be treated in the same way as fallen cattle.
The EC requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 which establishes a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals are enforced through: