Animal Health & Welfare

Calves at market


In the guide

In order for calves to be accepted for sale at market, specific conditions must be satisfied.

This guidance is for Wales

Calves may not be admitted to market for a number of reasons, including being unfit or under seven days old.

All calves must be correctly identified and have a valid passport to be transported and sold at market.

Food chain information (FCI) must be provided with all calves that are received for slaughter. FCI should also accompany calves sent to market that are likely to be bought for slaughter.

Some markets incorporate the information required on the sale entry forms.


Calves coming under one or more of the following categories must not be admitted to market:

  • unfit calves - defined as infirm, diseased, ill, injured and fatigued
  • calves under seven days old, with or without dam*
  • calves with unhealed navels*
  • calves that have been brought to market on more than one occasion in the previous 28 days*
  • calves less than 10 days old, unless they are transported less than 100km (62 miles) to the market

[*For the purpose of article 14 of the Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 calves at markets are defined as 'a bovine animal under 12 weeks of age'. In all other cases a calf is a bovine under the age of six months.]

Injury or suffering

No person shall cause or permit any injury or unnecessary suffering to an animal in a market, nor transport animals in a way likely to cause injury or undue suffering. Owners and keepers (including those with temporary responsibility such as market operators) have a duty of care to ensure animals are protected at all times. Animals must be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease. This basic duty of care applies in all situations, including while at market.

The owner of any calf in a market, or their agent, must remove it from the market within four hours of the last calf being sold in the auction that day.


Calves must not be lifted or dragged by the head, neck, ears, horns, legs, feet or tail. Calves must not be muzzled or tied up. The requirement not to cause injury or suffering by any means is also applicable to the handling of calves.

Excessive force should not be used to control calves, nor any other animal in a market. No animals, including calves, should be driven or led over uneven or slippery floors that are likely to cause them to slip or fall. No person may obstruct or annoy an animal in a market.

Use of an instrument capable of inflicting an electrical shock is prohibited for use on calves in all markets, as is the use of any goad stick or other instrument or other thing.


An adequate supply of suitable bedding must be provided in a market and during transit, and this must be dry when it is provided. A thin dusting of sawdust would not be considered adequate. Calves less than four weeks old must also be provided with covered accommodation at market.


No overcrowding is permitted, neither at market nor in transit. All calves must be able to lie down at the same time. Any pen used should be suitable for the size and species of that animal.

When animals are penned, those of one species should be kept in separate pens from animals of another species (and be distributed within the pens, having regard to differences in age and size) so as to avoid unnecessary suffering to them.

Any 'fractious' animals should be penned separately from other animals.

Documentation required


All calves must be correctly identified with a tag in each ear and accompanied by a valid cattle passport. The valid passport must travel to and from the market with the calf.

The auctioneers cannot accept any calf for sale without a valid cattle passport and it is an offence to alter or deface any information in a cattle passport or use a cattle passport for any animal other than the animal for which it was granted.

'Valid', in relation to a cattle passport, means one that has been correctly completed and signed in the appropriate place by each keeper of the animal and where the identification number and description of the animal in the passport correlate to the ear tags and the animal.


EU food hygiene legislation requires slaughterhouse operators to 'request, receive, check and act upon' food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, calves, pigs, poultry, horses, sheep, goats and farmed game sent for slaughter for human consumption. Food chain information must be provided with all calves that are received for slaughter. If you are sending calves to market that are likely to be bought for slaughter, then they should be accompanied to the market by a FCI declaration.

For more information please see 'Food chain information (FCI)' and the Food Standards Agency website, which also features guidance on FCI.

Some markets incorporate the information required on their sale entry forms. Please check with the auctioneers.


Failure to comply is an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: June 2017

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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