Livestock identification and traceability: guidance

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

Sheep and goats

From 1 January 2021 there will be some changes to the requirements around the export of livestock from Scotland to the European Union (EU) and movements to Northern Ireland (NI). Whilst the below export requirements for movements to the EU will not change, requirements for exports from Great Britain (GB) to NI are subject to ongoing negotiations. As currently written, the Northern Ireland Protocol will require movements of livestock from GB to NI to be treated as if moving livestock to a Member State from 1 January 2021. Read the guidance about livestock identification export requirements post EU exit.

Sheep and goat identification and traceability are a vital part of animal disease control in Scotland. In the event of a disease outbreak, it is important that all animals can be identified and movements traced.


There are a number of steps you need to take before you move sheep or goats onto your holding in order to operate within the requirements of the law:

  1. 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.
  2. You must then inform your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office who will give you a herd mark (goats) or a flock mark (sheep) for your holding. The herd/flock mark means you will be able to buy tags and electronic identifiers for your sheep or goats.

You must register your holding within 30 days from the date you first keep animals.

You must also inform APHA within 30 days of ceasing to keep animals on a holding.

Animal categories

There are four animal categories and the identification and recording rules are different for each one.

The categories are as follows:

  • fully EID identified animals
  • double identified
  • slaughter animals (lambs or kids)
  • the historic flock or herd or historic animals (sheep or goats born or identified before 31 December 2009)

For information on specific requirements for each category, please refer to the sheep and goat identification and traceability: guidance for keepers in Scotland.


Sheep Tagging

All sheep in the UK must be tagged by the time they are 9 months old (6 months if reared indoors) or when they leave the holding of birth (whichever comes first). Adult sheep (animals older than 12 months) must have two identifiers with the same unique individual identification number. One of the identifiers must be an electronic identifier (EID) tag. Identifiers are typically ear tags but one of the two identifiers may be another type of identifier. 

Goat Tagging

All Goats in the UK must be tagged by the time they are 9 months old (6 months if reared indoors) or when they leave the holding of birth (whichever comes first). Adult goats (animals older than 12 months) must have two identifiers with the same unique individual identification number. The use of electronic identifiers (EID) tags is voluntary for goats however, if they are born after 31 December 2009 and intended for export they must be fully EID identified.

Types of tags

The main types of tags available are as follows:

  • two piece plastic tags - these are two discs joined through the ear, one or both bearing a wide, flat plastic surface on which identification details are written or printed in large, easily legible script. These are used in cattle or sheep
  • button-shaped ear tags - these are two discs joined through the ear and are used in cattle or sheep
  • plastic loop or fold over tags - these are a moulded plastic strip that is folded over the edge of the ear and joined through the ear. These tags are used in sheep
  • metal ear tags - these are aluminium, steel or brass rectangle tags with sharp points that are clipped over the edge of the ear with the identification details stamped into it. These are used in cattle and sheep.


The EID identifier in Scotland can be any colour, however, we recommend that you use yellow to follow the position in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have reserved this colour for EID identifiers. You should check with your purchasers and suppliers for any preferences they may have. Keepers of sheep/goats must order ear tags from one of the Defra approved ear tag manufacturers.

The numbers and letters on all identifiers must be a different colour to the background of the identifier and must be clearly readable. You may use any colour, other than the reserved ones (red and black) for non-electronic tags and management tags. For official identification, you must only use approved identifiers.

Reserved colours for tags:

  • Red for replacement tags only (including EID identifiers).
  • Black for ear or pastern tags where the sheep has an EID bolus.

Ten golden rules for tagging

Before tagging you should make sure the animal's head is secure to prevent jerking during tagging.  Think carefully about the best type of tags for your animals. There are many types available. Use a suitable size and style tag for the breed, size and age of the animal.

Make sure your operator is properly trained, competent and familiar with the manufacturer instructions.

  1. The preference is that the electronic tag should be inserted in the left ear as you look from behind the sheep.
  2. Make sure the tags are correct for the breed, size and age of the animal and they must be fitted in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions which may vary from tag to tag.
  3. Leave room for ear growth when tagging younger animals with fold over tags.
  4. Insert the tag with the male part, the pin, pushed through from the back of the ear.
  5. Insert tags about one third of the distance away from the head.
  6. Tag your sheep during cool dry weather and give them room after tagging.
  7. Make sure the tags and applicator are clean and use disinfectant.
  8. Make sure you do not tag through cartilage ridges and blood vessels.
  9. Restrain the animal firmly between your legs when tagging, do not tag over the edge of a race.
  10. Do not tag animals that are ill or showing signs of Orf, or if they must be tagged leave them until last and fully disinfect equipment.

Farm records

All keepers must keep a holding register showing:

  • The County Parish Holding (CPH), address of the holding and the name and address of the keeper;
  • The type of production (meat, wool or hobby);
  • The result of the latest inventory and the date which it was carried out;
  • For animals leaving the holding the name of the transporter, vehicle registration, the CPH or name and address of destination and date of departure; and
  • For animals arriving on the holding the CPH of the holding from which the animal came and the date of arrival.

You must also record any replacement tags against the original individual identification number.  Holding registers can be downloaded.

The following additional information must be recorded in the holding register for sheep that are fully EID identified and goats which are double identified:

  • Date of first identification;
  • When the animal dies; and
  • Moves to another holding.

Registers must be completed within the following deadlines:

  • 48 hours in the case of movements "on" or "off" a holding;
  • 48 hours of the animal being identified for the first time;
  • 48 hours for a death; and
  • 48 hours for replacement ear tags.

Sheep/goat inspections

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.


If you move your sheep or goats you will need to complete a movement document. These documents are in triplicate form therefore the information entered on the first page will be transferred to the following two pages, the first page is white and the following pages are yellow and pink. The movement document must be completed by the keeper at various stages of the move.

Movement documents are issued by the Scottish Government and can be obtained from your local RPID office.

Each keeper should complete the movement document as follows:




Departure location keeper

Full Movement document (keep pink copy)

Before the animals begin their journey you must enter the following details on the movement document:

• CPH of the departure location
• departure address
• name and address of the keeper
• date of departure
• number of animals being moved
• CPH or address of the receiving location
• signature of the keeper

The individual number must be recorded on the movement document for moves to shows and for the movement of rams or goats to another holding for breeding purposes.

Once the haulier/transporter has completed the haulage details, the pink copy of the movement document must be retained by the departure keeper for three years and be available for inspection if required.


White/Yellow copy of movement document

Before the journey commences the Transporter/Haulier must enter the haulage details on the movement document. The white & yellow copy of the movement document or market movement document must accompany the animals on the journey. On arrival at the destination, these must be given to the receiving keeper.

Receiving location keeper

Keep yellow copy, send white copy to SAMU (contact details below)

You must check that the information about the number of animals moved and the destination details on the movement document received are correct. All moves that take place out with a market must be notified to SAMU within three days by the receiving keeper. The date of arrival and the keeper’s signature must be added. The yellow copy of the movement document must be retained by the keeper for three years and be available for inspection if required.

Contact details for SAMU

Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU)
161 Brooms Road

Tel: 0300 244 5888
Fax: 0300 244 8844

Movement restrictions

The current animal movement restrictions under the Disease Control (Interim Measures) (Scotland) Order 2002 were introduced on 18 February 2002. This legislation provides that animals may only move under licence and imposes standstill periods when animals are brought onto holdings.

At present this standstill period is 13 days for sheep and goats. Further information on standstill periods.

Current legislation

The EC requirements of Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 which establishes a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals are enforced through:

The Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) (Scotland) Order 2009

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