Animal Health & Welfare

Requirements for cattle identification


In the guide

Understand the requirements for herd registration, tagging, passports and record-keeping for all keepers of cattle

This guidance is for Wales

The Cattle Identification (Wales) Regulations 2007 implement European Union (EU) requirements relating to the notification of cattle holdings, ear tagging, passports and registration of cattle, and the subsequent record keeping requirements.

Cattle need to be identified for traceability, to track disease outbreaks and to ensure the integrity of British beef.

Cattle must be identified with a pair of approved ear tags and have been issued with a passport. This identity and documentation must stay with the beast throughout its life. The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) must be informed of any movements and deaths.

A record of all cattle births, deaths and movements must be recorded in the on-farm holding register.

Before moving cattle to your holding

If you want to keep cattle you will first require a county parish holding (CPH) number, which identifies the land where they will be kept.

To apply for a CPH number you need to contact the Rural Payments Wales (RPW) customer contact centre on 0300 062 5004.

Notification of holdings

An occupier of a holding who begins to keep cattle on that holding, and any person who takes over the occupation of a holding where cattle are kept, must notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) of their name and address and the address of the holding. This must be done within one month. APHA should be contacted on 0300 303 8268 or They will provide you with your herd number at this stage.

You must also notify APHA, within one month, if you stop keeping cattle.

Why & how do cattle need to be identified?

Cattle need to be identified for traceability, in order to:

  • identify the herd of origin, and to ensure the integrity of British beef by ensuring that products going into the human food chain are fully traceable and as safe to eat as possible
  • enable tracing during disease outbreaks, therefore supporting the control and eradication of bovine diseases - for example, bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)

All cattle born since 1 January 1998 must be identified with a pair of Welsh Government-approved ear tags and it is a requirement that all such cattle display at least one primary tag, plus either a second primary tag or a secondary tag in the other ear (double tagging).

Primary & secondary tags

The 'primary' tag may be inserted in either ear but must:

  • be made of yellow plastic
  • be at least 45 mm from top to bottom
  • be at least 55 mm wide
  • have characters a minimum of 5 mm height
  • have the crown logo
  • have the letters 'UK'
  • have a unique lifetime identification number

The 'secondary' tag may be of a range of approved materials and models, including metal, plastic 'button' type, and other plastic types. It must contain the same information as the primary tag, but may also contain management information. The secondary tag must be in a different ear from the primary tag.

Since 1 April 1998 only yellow primary tags have been produced. All newborn animals must be identified by these yellow primary tags and a secondary tag as described above.

EU regulations also allow the option of including a barcode on an official tag. Whilst Great Britain chose not to introduce this requirement, in some EU states it is compulsory. However, there is no requirement for cattle born in Great Britain to be identified with ear tags bearing a barcode. This includes animals going for export. It is entirely up to the importer and exporter to decide, through commercial arrangements, whether or not this is necessary.

Lost & illegible tags

If a keeper discovers an ear tag applied under these Regulations has become illegible or lost they must, within 28 days of discovery, replace it with an ear tag bearing the same unique number.

Cattle must not be moved from a holding until any lost ear tags have been replaced.

If any animal was identified under the previous Cattle Tagging Order and loses its tag, it can be identified in any of the following ways:

  • an ear tag bearing the same number
  • a new ear tag / number
  • a pair of tags bearing the same number

If the animal is given a new number this must be cross-referenced with the old number in the on-farm movement register. The certificate of registration (COR) and old-style (blue and green) passport must be returned to BCMS within 14 days (and before the animal is moved off the holding) for the passport to be reissued. 

Animals born since 1 January 1998 must retain the same number throughout their lives.

Tagging of dairy herds

The first ear tag must be applied within 36 hours of the birth of the animal and the second tag must be applied within 20 days of birth.

Tagging for all other herds

Both tags must be applied within 20 days of the birth of the animal.

What are cattle passports?

A cattle passport is a Government-issued document that states the animal's:

  • date of birth
  • official ear tag number
  • ear tag number of the dam
  • breed
  • sex

This document must accompany the animal throughout its life, from birth to death, and must include all movements, changes of ownership, passages through cattle markets, etc.

You must check that all the animal's details are correct on its passport; failure to do so may render the passport invalid. If you find an error you should return the passport along with a covering letter to BCMS detailing the changes to be made. You cannot move the animal until you receive a corrected passport. It is an offence to deface or alter any information in a cattle passport or use a cattle passport for any animal other than the animal for which it was granted.

The chequebook-style passport provides for a notification card to be completed when the animal is moved and sent to BCMS within three days of the movement or the movement can be notified to BCMS electronically or via telephone as outlined below.

Since 1 August 2011, cattle registered with BCMS have been issued with a one page A4-style passport, which no longer includes prepaid movement cards. This type of passport replaces the chequebook-style passport. The movements of all cattle with the new-style passport will now have to be notified to BCMS by one of the following methods:

These electronic services should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Do I need a cattle passport?

It is a legal requirement that all cattle must be correctly identified, and those born since 1 July 1996 must be accompanied by a cattle passport. Those born before this date must have a certificate of registration (COR). The passport / COR must be kept by the keeper of the animal. The keeper, not the owner, must hold all the identification documents for the animals they are responsible for. If animals are moved to common land, summer grazing or winter lets, the keeper of the animals must have the passport. Anyone transporting cattle must ensure that each animal is accompanied throughout its journey with a valid cattle passport / COR.

Cattle with a COR are restricted under the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (Wales) Regulations 2018 to their current holding due to their age and consequent TSE risk. Keepers wishing to move these restricted animals must submit a movement licence application form, completed by both parties involved in the movement, to the APHA One Health Customer Service Centre in Worcester. Further information can be found in the cattle without passports section of the GOV.UK website.

How do I obtain cattle passports?

Prior to 1 July 1996 all older cattle should be in possession of a COR document (obtainable from BCMS). Between 1 July 1996 and 28 September 1998 all cattle on a green passport should also have a COR document (also obtainable from BCMS), thus enabling movement cards to be sent to BCMS within three days of the movement.

Cattle born after 28 September 1998 were issued with a chequebook-style passport obtained from BCMS.

Cattle registered since 1 August 2011 with BCMS are issued with a one page A4-style passport.

All applications for cattle passports must be made to BCMS within seven days of tagging (a maximum of 27 days in total from the date of birth). Keepers of cattle must ensure that passport applications are made within the specified time limits. It is an offence to have cattle without passports outside the time limits stated above.

What records am I required to keep?

a) On-farm cattle breeding records

All dairy herd births must be recorded in the register within seven days of birth. All other herd births must be recorded in the register within 30 days of birth.

The following information must be recorded in the register in relation to each birth:

  • ear tag number of the calf
  • date of birth
  • breed
  • sex
  • dam's identification number

b) Cattle movement records

The following information must be recorded in the holding register within 36 hours of an animal moving on to or off a holding:

  • ear tag number of the animal
  • date of birth
  • breed
  • sex
  • dam's identification number (only for animals born on the holding)
  • date of the movement on to or off a holding
  • holding or premises from which moved, including the name and address, or county parish holding (CPH) number, of the person from whom delivery was taken
  • holding or premises to which moved, including the name and address, or CPH number, of the person taking delivery
  • date of any deaths and where the animal is sent for disposal (within seven days)
  • date of any replacement ear tags (within 36 hours - only if eartag number has been changed and only for animals born before 1 January 1998)

The name and address of the holder of the record must be recorded in the register along with the CPH number to which the register relates and the relevant herd mark.

Whenever you move cattle, you must follow the conditions of the general licence for the movement of cattle. 

Cattle Tracing System (CTS) links have now been phased out. You can, instead, apply for a temporary land association. Particular care should be taken to accurately record cattle movements if moving cattle from a historically linked premises. More information on the registering of land you use to keep livestock can be found within the CPH and Livestock Movements: New Rules document on the Welsh Government website.

In what form should the records be kept?

The records may be paper based or stored on a computer and should be in a format approved by the Welsh Government. The keeper must produce these records to an inspector when asked to do so.

We recommend that cattle keepers maintain records following the format of the holding register suggested by the BCMS.

This format covers both on-farm cattle breeding records and the cattle movement records.

How long must I keep these records?

Records must be kept for 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last entry was made.


Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: October 2018

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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