Publication - Advice and guidance

Livestock identification and traceability: guidance

Published: 10 May 2019
Last updated: 22 Oct 2021 - see all updates

How we identify animals and how they are tracked when they are moved.

Livestock identification and traceability: guidance
Cattle

Cattle

In Scotland from 4 October 2021 all cattle births, deaths and movements must be reported to ScotMoves+ which will be operated by ScotEID. The ScotEID multispecies database already handles cattle movements within a business (ScotMoves) as well as Scottish sheep/goat and pig movement and the ScotEquine database. Since late 2013, cattle data has been used to implement the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) eradication programme in Scotland and it has also enabled development of an online system for keepers, markets and abattoirs to check using tag/passport numbers that cattle have been born and reared on Scottish holdings, the Scotch Potential Eligibility Cattle Checker (SPECC).

The new service will not require any further information to be recorded that isn’t already being captured in your on-farm holding register. The only change is the point of entry for Scottish cattle keepers for cattle data collection. ScotMoves+ will also act, in the future, as the electronic holding register for all Scottish cattle keepers.

We will continue to work with ScotEID and with the other UK administrations in order to facilitate data exchange of cross-border movements and provide a system which will deliver an overall UK View of cattle data. This will provide a system which will allow the effective traceability of all cattle within the UK.

A full Q&A on ScotMoves+ is available here.

This guidance explains the requirements for identification, registration and movement of cattle.

Getting started

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 ScotEID and they will then record your details on the ScotMoves+ system and send you information 

You can register with ScotEID via the following methods:

  • via the ScotEID website
  • telephone on 01466 794323
  • by paper application to ScotEID, 7 Deveron Road, Huntly, AB54 8DU

If you already have a ScotEID account with a username and password there is no need to re-register as you will be able to use your existing ScotEID account. If you use an agent to manage and notify your cattle records to BCMS, your agent must register with ScotEID.

Whenever your contact details change, it is important to contact RPID, APHA and ScotEID if there is a change to any of the following:

  • business title
  • telephone number
  • holding address (i.e. where the cattle are kept)
  • correspondence name and address (if different from your holding address)
  • email address

Identification

 

Date of birth

Tagging requirements

Example of tagging format

15 October 1990 to 1 April 1995

Ear Tag

A1234 123

B654 3210

D123 123C

 

1 April 1995 to 31 December 1997

At least one ear tag with a unique alpha-numeric identity.Includes UK at the beginning.

 

UKAB1234 56789

UK A1234 56789

1 January 1998 to 31 December 1999

Ear tag in each ear (double tagging) with the same unique alpha-numeric identity for the lifetime of the animal. Includes UK at the beginning.

 

UKAB1234 56789

UK A1234 56789

1 January 2000 to current (1 July 2000 made compulsory)

Ear tag in each ear with the same unique numeric (numbers only) identity for the lifetime of the animal. Includes UK at the beginning.

UK666666500046

When to identify

All cattle born on your holding must be tagged within the following deadlines:

  • beef cattle: an approved ear tag 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 ear tag 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

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.

You must register your calf with ScotEID within 27 days of birth. The exception being bison which must be notified within seven days of birth.

If an untagged animal dies before these deadlines you do not need to tag it, but you must record its date of birth and date of death against the dam number in your holding register.

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.

Ordering ear tags

Keepers of cattle must order ear tags from one of the Defra-approved ear tag manufacturers.

Defra will continue to approve ear tags on behalf of the UK. The manufacturer will notify the Government's Ear Tag 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 ear tags to a maximum of one years' supply.

Replacements

You must replace lost or illegible tags as soon as possible, but no later than 28 days after you notice the loss or damage.

The Information you’ll need to register your calf

When registering your calf the following information will need to be recorded on ScotEID:

  • the 12 digit ear tag number
  • the sex of the animal
  • the birth dam’s ear tag number (the animal that gave birth to the calf)
  • the genetic dam’s ear tag number, if different to the birth dam (if known)
  • the date of birth
  • the breed
  • the sire’s ear tag number (if known)

It is your responsibility as a keeper to ensure that the information you provide to ScotEID is accurate. Any corrections i.e. an incorrect sex, should be notified to ScotEID upon discovery in order to maintain the accuracy of the holding register. If you need to amend a passport then the passport issued will be the passport with the next appropriate version number for the passport for that animal. Passports requiring amendment should be sent into ScotEID with the required amendment clearly marked on the passport.

Late calf registration

If you do not register your calf within 27 days of the birth then your application is late and a Notice of Registration is issued. In practical terms, this means that:

  • the animal must remain on your holding for its lifetime
  • the animal must not move alive from your holding, unless you get a movement licence and move the animal direct to a BSE sampling site, knackers yard or hunt kennel
  • the animal is not eligible for the human food chain
  • the animal can only be used for milking or breeding purposes (you must register any calves from these animals in the usual way)

Cattle passports

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.

A keeper must apply for passports within seven days of the animal being tagged (a maximum of 27 days in total from date of birth) for cattle and buffalo. Bison must be registered within seven days of birth.

Applications which are not received in time could lead to restrictions of movements of cattle on a keeper's holding and refusal of the passport application.

From 4 October 2021 cattle passports will be issued by The Scottish Government. You can record a birth using the ScotEID website, ScotMoves+. Scottish passports contain the same data and the layout remains the same however for those that scan passports for processing we have added a QR code of the animal ID in the centre at the top of the passport for easier scanning with a mobile phone. A sample of the new ‘Scottish’ passport has been sent to all Scottish cattle keepers and can also be viewed on ScotEID. All existing passports remain valid.

Animals born before 4 October 2021 may have one of 3 types of cattle passport dependent on when they were born. These are:

  • single-page passport (from 1 August 2011)
  • chequebook-style passport (animals registered between 28 September 1996 & 31 July 2011)
  • old-style blue and green passport (animals registered between 1 July 1996 & 27 September 1998)

Animals born before 4 October 2021 which do not have passports would be expected to have one of the following 2 other types of identification:

  • certificate of CTS registration (animals born or imported into Great Britain before 1 July 1996)
  • notice of registration (issued if a cattle passport is refused and restricts the animal from leaving its holding unless under licence)

Amendments & replacements

If you need to amend a passport or request a replacement then the passport issued will be the Scottish passport with the next appropriate version number for the passport for that animal. Passports requiring amendment should be sent into ScotEID with the required amendment clearly marked on the passport. In the event of a replacement passport being required then a £20 charge will apply. Passports notified to ScotEID as not received within 6 weeks of issue will be replaced free of charge.

Barcode labels

From 4 October 2021 barcode labels can be requested, free of charge from ScotEID. You will still be able to use any stocks of BCMS issued bar code labels after this date however, subsequent requests will be made to ScotEID.

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. 

Holding register

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:

  • ear tag number
  • date of birth
  • sex
  • breed
  • identity of genetic dam
  • date of death of animal on the holding
  • date of movements on and off your holding
  • details of where the animals had moved to or from

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 ear tags

Notification of movements

When cattle move ‘on’ or ‘off’ your holding the movement must be recorded in your holding register and you must notify the movement to ScotEID. 

If you are moving an animal ‘on’ or ‘off’ your holding to a Scottish market or a Scottish abattoir then most will notify the movement for you. It is still the legal responsibility for a keeper to ensure their records are accurate and up-to-date. 

Keepers can notify movements electronically to the ScotMoves+ database, the ScotEID website or alternatively by telephone ScotEID on 01466 794323.

Movements in and out of Scotland

For a private sale, show or hire move, out of Scotland, you must notify ScotEID of the move ‘off’ your holding to the holding in England. For a market sale at a Scottish market, the market would record the move ‘off’ movement to the English holding and send the data to ScotEID.

For moves into Scotland you must notify ScotEID by recording the departure holding the animals have come from out with Scotland when recording the animals ‘on’ movement to your holding.

If you have holdings in Scotland and England, you must register with ScotEID for cattle records including births, deaths and movements for the holding in Scotland. For a holding in England, you will continue to use BCMS and record your cattle records on CTS.

Movements within a business between holdings in Scotland and England cannot be considered to be internal moves and must be recorded as external moves, i.e. business to business moves. These are treated as cross border moves.

Scottish live auction sales - four-way movement reporting system

All Scottish markets report the following movements, including the 'off farm' and the 'on farm' 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

ScotMoves - within business moves

The ScotMoves system gives 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 it being recorded on the animals passport. The ScotMoves system does not require any additional information to be recorded other than those moves you are already recording in your holding register.

Additional holdings used with the ScotMoves system are only valid for 364 days and must be renewed annually. You can update or amend the registration at any point during this time. ScotMoves and ScotMoves+ will not automatically re-register an additional holding unless we receive a report during the final 120 days of the registration that a move had occurred during that period.

Direct to slaugter - 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 to ScotEID. 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 ScotEID. 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 to ScotEID.

Movements to and from shows

All movements ‘on’ and ‘off’ showgrounds must be notified to ScotEID. When an animal moves to and from a showground, you need to do the following:

  • report a movement ‘off’ your holding
  • report the movement back ‘on’ to your holding

Show secretaries will generally report movements ‘on’ and ‘off’ the showground however, you should check with them in advance of the move.

Movements of hire bulls

When a hire bull leaves your holding the following must the notified to ScotEID:

  • you notify the ‘off’ movement
  • the keeper hiring the bull notifies the ‘on’ movement
  • when the animal returns to your holding the keeper hiring the bull notifies the ‘off’ movement from their holding
  • you notify the ‘on’ movement when the bull is returned to your holding

Movement of untagged calves

You cannot move any animals from a holding which aren’t identified with an ear tag. However, calves under 27 days old which need to be moved for welfare reasons or for exceptional circumstances such as flooding or fire are exempt. ScotEID must be notified straightaway and you must provide them with the following:

  • the sex of the animal
  • the birth dam’s ear tag number (the animal that gave birth to the calf)
  • the genetic dam’s ear tag number, if different to the birth dam (if known)
  • the date of birth
  • the breed
  • the sire’s ear tag number (if known)
  • the date and CPH when and where the animal is moving from
  • information about the new keeper and new holding

Movement of pre-August ’96 animals

Movement restrictions apply to all cattle born or reared in the UK before 1 August 1996. All keepers of these cattle were issued with restriction notices for these animals and they cannot be moved off their current holding except under a licence issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). This also applies when moving an animal to an additional holding using ScotMoves.

When a licence is issued the movement should be reported to ScotEID in the normal way.

Licences will not be issued for movements to a market, an abattoir or to anyone who facilitates the sale of cattle.

Import & export of livestock

If an animal imported or moved into Great Britain moves directly to a slaughterhouse, you do not need to apply for a passport. If this is not the case then within 15 days of the animal arriving at your holding, the following documents should be sent to ScotEID:

  • completed form CPP16S
  • any original EU passport that came with the animal
  • an export health certificate

If you are moving the animal from Northern Ireland, the animal will arrive with a printout from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) database. You should send this instead of the original passport.

Republic of Ireland ear tag numbers

From 1 January 2018 all cattle born and registered in the Republic of Ireland were identified by a new 3 digit country code (372) followed in the usual way by the 12 digit individual animal identifier. This international technical standards (ISO) country code replaces the previous 2 letter country code (IE). For traceability, country codes 372 and IE both relate to the Republic of Ireland.

Cattle imported from outside the EU

Within 20 days of the animal leaving the border inspection post or before it leaves the holding of destination, you must remove any original ear tags and replace them with approved UK ear tags.

Within 15 days from the date the animal is tagged, you must register the animal with ScotEID.

Export of animals from the UK

Full guidance on exporting livestock can be found here - https://www.gov.scot/publications/livestock-identification-export-requirements-post-eu-exit-guidance/

Movement restrictions

At present this standstill period is 13 days for cattle. Although introduced as a direct result of the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, these movement restrictions will also help to control the spread of other potential outbreaks of contagious diseases.

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.

Death reporting

If an animal dies on your holding

You must report your animals death to ScotEID within seven days. You can report the death by either:

In both instances the passport must be returned to ScotEID, 7 Deveron Road, Huntly, AB54 8DU.

You are not allowed to bury or burn carcasses on your holding (unless an incineration plant on your holding has been approved by APHA). In Scotland there are exceptions to this in specified remote areas in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Animals over 48 months old

You must contact a collector within 24 hours of death to arrange delivery of the carcase to an approved sampling site so that a brainstem sample can be taken for BSE testing. If you wish to deliver the carcase yourself you must notify the sampling site within 24 hours of the death however, you have a further 48 hours to make the delivery.

If your animal has a single page passport the TSE cut-off slip should be left with the carcase. If your animal has a chequebook style passport or a certificate of registration the movement card should be left with the carcase.

Certain Scottish Islands are exempt from sending these animals for BSE testing.

Live animals over 48 months old may only be moved to an approved sampling site under licence which can be obtained by contacting BCMS. The licence should accompany the animal to the sampling site and they will report the death of the animal. ScotEID will update your holding register to reflect the ‘off’ and ‘on’ movements.

If an animal is slaughtered at an abattoir

When you consign an animal for slaughter most abattoirs notify ScotEID about the ‘off’ and ‘on’ movement. 

You must make sure the animal is correctly identified and that it is accompanied by the appropriate Food Chain Information (FCI).

If an animal is slaughtered on the holding

If your animal is slaughtered on your holding by a vet or slaughterhouse operative then you must notify the death to ScotEID.

Cattle identification inspections

Why we have inspections

RPID carry out cattle inspections. Other bodies such as APHA and local authorities may also carry out inspections. The aim of the inspection is to make sure that the requirements of identification and traceability for cattle are understood and are being complied with.

What the inspector does

The Scottish Government (through RPID) carries out cattle identification inspections to make sure cattle keepers are complying with animal identification and traceability, and (where applicable) voluntary coupled support scheme legislation set by the United Kingdom

The main purpose of the inspection is to check compliance with the cattle keeper requirements so that Scottish Government can monitor and trace the cattle population if there is a serious disease outbreak.

Inspectors will count all the animals kept on the holding and verify the accuracy of the holding register by comparing it against the number of animals present. The inspector will also confirm whether the key requirements of identification and traceability legislation have been complied with. The key requirements are:

  • keeper registration (APHA)
  • identification
  • notifying moves to ScotEID
  • record keeping

The inspector confirms whether the key requirements of cattle identification and traceability legislation have been complied with.

The key requirements are:

  • keeper registration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency
  • tagging of cattle in accordance with current legislation
  • registration of cattle with ScotEID and notified all births, movements and deaths
  • retention of the appropriate passports
  • record keeping of all cattle births, movements and deaths

The inspector will check cattle records and passports against the information supplied to the ScotEID systems (ScotMoves+ and ScotMoves), verifying the information in the records plus other supporting documents such as purchase and sales invoices.

The inspector will physically inspect the animals to verify the accuracy of the records and check the eartags to ensure the cattle have been tagged correctly.

What you have to do

Inspections are carried out unannounced. An inspector will normally start by checking the holding register. You will be given a reasonable amount of time to present your animals for inspection. You must make sure that the inspector can safely inspect your animals and provide suitable handling facilities and, if necessary, people to gather the animals.

How long an inspection takes

The time an inspection takes will depend on the number of animals involved and the accuracy of the holding register. The time an inspection takes can be reduced by ensuring your holding register is accurate and up-to-date.

How we choose farms for inspection

Holdings to be inspected are selected either at random or on the basis of risk analysis. The risk factors considered include for example, the number of animals on the holding, the results of previous inspections and the length of time since the last inspection.

Action taken as the result of an inspection

If at the end of the inspection, the inspector finds that more than 20% of the cattle on your holding do not meet the identification and traceability rules then a whole herd restriction will be put in place restricting movements ‘on’ and ‘off’ your holding.

You will receive a movement restriction notice which will list all the animals on your holding and what you need to do in order for the restriction to be lifted. You cannot move any animals ‘off’ your holding until more than 80% of your cattle meet the regulations however, if the restriction is also for ‘on’ movements then you cannot move any animals onto your holding until 80% of your cattle meet the regulations. 

You must notify BCMS when 80% or more of your herd meet the regulations. An inspector may be asked to visit your holding to confirm that corrective action has been taken. If less than 20% of your animals still do not meet the legislative requirements then these animals will be individually restricted to the holding until action has been taken to meet the requirements.

Animals found to be unidentified and untraceable will have an assessment of the animal health and food safety risks it poses. The outcome of this assessment for an animal can range from destruction without compensation or the animal being issued with a Notice of Registration (NOR). An animal issued with a NOR means that:

  • the animal must remain on your holding for its lifetime
  • the animal must not move alive from your holding, unless you get a movement licence from ScotEID and move the animal direct to a BSE sampling site, knackers yard or hunt kennel
  • the animal is not eligible for the human food chain
  • the animal can only be used for milking or breeding purposes (you must register any calves from these animals in the usual way)

Keepers determined as not meeting their legislative requirements risk the reduction of any agricultural subsidy payments, fines and in the worst cases, legal action.

Visit the Rural Payments and Services website for detailed information on cattle inspections in Scotland.

Current legislation

The EC requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 which establishes a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals are enforced through:


First published: 10 May 2019 Last updated: 22 Oct 2021 -