Animal Health & Welfare

Cattle that have been refused passports

In the guide

This guidance is for Wales

Every bovine animal in the United Kingdom is identified by a unique number, which is shown both on ear tags and in a cattle passport. By law all cattle must be registered on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) by applying for a valid passport to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). An application for a cattle passport must be received by BCMS within a total of 27 days from birth (with the exception of bison).

If an application for a cattle passport is declined, you may consider appealing in the first instance against BCMS's refusal to issue the passport. Grounds for appeal are limited and you will need to show there were exceptional circumstances that stopped you making the application on time.

Cattle without passports, whether male or female, cannot be moved off your holding alive except under a licence, and then only to an approved sampling site. Cattle, if under 48 months old can be shot on farm and removed under licence to a knacker's yard, hunt kennel, rendering or incineration plant. If over 48 months old (or over 24 months of age in certain circumstances), cattle must be tested for BSE.

Cattle identification

The Cattle Identification (Wales) Regulations 2007 require every bovine animal (including water buffalo and bison) in the United Kingdom to be identified with a unique number shown both on an ear tag in each ear and on the corresponding paper passport, which is held by the current keeper of the animal. The unique number and passport remains with the animal throughout its life and any movements undertaken are recorded both on the paper passport and electronically on a national system administered by BCMS. Such a system is important because:

  • it supports the control and eradication of bovine diseases - for example, bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
  • it protects consumers by ensuring that products going into the human food chain are as fully traceable and as safe to eat as possible

Applying for cattle passports

Applications for cattle passports must be made to BCMS in Workington and can be made in five ways:

  • through CTS Online
  • CTS Web Services
  • using an agent
  • using the pre-printed application form sent automatically when an order for eartags is confirmed (if you regularly register your cattle births electronically, BCMS have stopped automatically issuing pre-printed passport application forms with ear tag orders)
  • Self Service Line (SSL) - the BCMS automated telephone system

All applications for cattle passports must be made to the BCMS within seven days of tagging (a maximum of 27 days in total from date of birth). 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.

Passport applications may be refused by BCMS if you apply late. If so, the animal(s) will be registered on the Cattle Tracing System and you will receive a notice of registration (CPP35) - this is not a cattle passport. Cattle issued with a CPP35 will not be eligible for slaughter for human consumption and cannot be sold or moved from the holding except under licence to a hunt kennel, knacker's yard or an approved sampling site.

It is an offence under the Cattle Identification (Wales) Regulations 2007 not to register cattle within the legal time limits (in other words, not to apply for a passport within the time periods specified in the Regulations).

What can I do with cattle that do not have passports?

In the first instance you may consider appealing against BCMS's refusal to issue passports. Grounds for appeal are limited and you will need to provide evidence to show that there were exceptional circumstances that stopped you making the application on time, for example:

  • postal delays - this is a common reason for appeal but BCMS will require independent evidence, such as a certificate of posting (in future you are advised to ask for a certificate of posting for any paper applications)
  • those outside your control ('acts of God') such as: major floods, regional or national power failures, or postal strikes
  • personal circumstances including a death in the family, a sudden serious illness, and theft of or damage to your farm records or computer
  • mistakes made by BCMS or a breakdown of CTS 

The following are not grounds for appeal:

  • a mistake, oversight or misunderstanding by you or anyone acting for you
  • being too busy with other farm work
  • financial difficulties

Send your appeal in writing to:
Appeals Section, BCMS, Curwen Road, Workington, Cumbria, CA14 2DD

It is imperative that if you are going to appeal, you do so immediately.

BCMS may issue a cattle passport outside the specified time but only if it is satisfied of the animal's identity and that all the information in the application is accurate.

This can be based on a DNA test, which proves that the animal or the offspring of the dam shows in the application. Further information on appeals of DNA testing can be obtained from the BCMS telephone helpline: 0345 0501234 or refer to the cattle keeper's handbook, which can be accessed through the BCMS section of the GOV.UK website (scroll down to 'What you must do when you keep cattle').

Cattle without passports, whether male or female, cannot be moved off your holding alive. The cattle (if under 48 months old) can be shot on the farm and removed under a BCMS issued pre-movement licence to a knacker's yard, hunt kennel, rendering or incinerator plant in accordance with animal by-products legislation. Further guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

All cattle that die or are slaughtered on farm or in transit (other than for human consumption) must be tested for BSE if they are:

  • aged over 48 months if born in EU member states (except Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia)
  • aged over 24 months if born outside the EU or in Bulgaria, Romania or Croatia

Cattle keepers must contact a collector within 24 hours of death to arrange delivery to an approved sampling site.

If delivering the carcases themselves, they should contact an approved sampling site to agree to this within 24 hours and must deliver the carcase within a further 48 hours; contact your normal collector or the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) on 01335 320014.

Female cattle without passports can be used as milking or suckler cows and their calves are eligible for passports. Cows used in this way will have no value at the end of their commercial life and will have to be put down on-farm and dealt with as mentioned above.

Male cattle without passports (except for a bull kept for breeding purposes) have no value and should be shot and disposed of as outlined above as soon as possible to avoid the cost of keeping them and the subsequent disposal cost.

In financial terms the sooner the cattle are slaughtered the lower the cost which will be incurred by you. It is in your interest to have these animals slaughtered without delay.

Cattle without passports can be slaughtered on the farm for your own consumption. Please see 'Home slaughter of cattle'.

You may be required by the Welsh government or local authority inspectors to account for all the cattle on your holding that have been refused passports.


If you move a live animal that does not have a cattle passport off your holding, without a licence, it is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: March 2017

PixelPlease 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.

© 2017 itsa Ltd.

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