Livestock Identification and Traceability

Correctly identified calf with two ear tags

All movements of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats (with a few exceptions e.g. for veterinary treatment) must be reported to the appropriate body responsible for maintaining the national database within 3 days i.e.

Cattle    British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS)  

Sheep and Goats  Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU)

Pigs    ScotEID

In the event of a disease outbreak, the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measures to control and eradicate highly contagious diseases.
Before moving livestock to a holding you need a County Parish Holding number (CPH) (issued by the Scottish Government) for the land where the livestock will be kept. The CPH is a nine digit number, the first 2 digits relate to the county, the next 3 relate to the parish and the last 4 digits are a unique number to the keeper e.g. 12/345/6789 The CPH is a crucial factor in identifying the actual holding animals are being moved from and to.

When a keeper of livestock is registered a unique flock/herd mark will automatically be created. Herdmarks for pigs are one or two letters followed by four digits e.g. AB1234 or A1234. Flock/herd marks for cattle, sheep and goats are six digits e.g. 123456. The herdmark provides a quick and effective means of identifying premises from which livestock have moved.



Cattle born on or after 1 January 1998 must have a Defra approved eartag in each ear (double tagging). One tag must be a primary eartag i.e. a distance readable eartag. Each eartag must have the same unique number. Such animals will be identified throughout their lifetime by this unique number. Animals born or imported into Great Britain before 1 January 1998 may continue to be identified by a single tag

Farm records:    

Records of cattle births, movements and deaths must be kept by keepers for 10 full calendar years


Cattle born since 1 July 1996 must have passports, recording where they have been throughout their lives. Older cattle have been issued with certificates of CTS Registration;

The Cattle Tracing System (CTS) is a computer based system to register cattle in Great Britain maintained by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). The CTS records the identification and death of cattle, the movements from birth to death of cattle issued with passports from 28 September 1998, and the movements of older cattle since 29 January 2001. Cattle keepers can now register new calves, report movements and check information held on their cattle on the CTS through the CTS website.

For further information on cattle identification and traceability please refer to our external links section.

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Sheep and Goats


For sheep born after 31 December 2009 options are

  • Two identifiers: 
    for breeding sheep you keep beyond 12 months of age.One identifier must be electronic and both must have the same number
  • One tag:
    for sheep intended for slaughter under 12 months of age only a single tag is required - it only needs to have the herd number
  • Upgrading:
    You can upgrade a slaughter animal if you want to keep it more than 12 months but only if full history is known. You must apply two indentifiers one of which must be electronic

Farm Register:    

A register of sheep and goat movements must be kept by keepers for 3 years;

Annual Inventory: 

A record must be made of the number of sheep and goats on a holding on the 1 January of each year and detail notified to SGRPID.

Movement Document: 

All movements for Sheep and Goats (except for emergency veterinary treatment) must be accompanied by a movement document. A copy of the movement document must be retained at the holdings of departure and destination for 3 years. The information relating to the movement must also be notified to SAMU within 3 days of the movement.

For further information please refer to our external links section, link titled Sheep and Goats.

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New legislation in force from 1 October 2011.

Further guidance is available on the Scottish Government website.

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All horses (includes ponies, donkeys and crossbreeds) are required to have their own ‘horse passport’.

The Horse Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2009 requires that when a horse (includes weaned foal) is moved

  • for competition purposes
  • for breeding purposes;
  • out of Scotland;
  • to the premises of a new keeper; or
  • for veterinary treatment

it must be accompanied by a valid horse passport.
It is an offence for any person to sell a horse without a passport

For all new horse passport applications the horse must be microchipped

For further information please refer to our external links section titled Horses.

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