In the guide

Although the United Kingdom left the European Union (EU) in 2021, certain pieces of legislation (known as 'assimilated law') continue to apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation, revoked or permitted to expire. This means that our guidance still contains references to legislation that originated from the EU.

This guidance is for Scotland

The Cattle Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2007 implement statutory 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 (apart from some older animals) 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.

ScotEID 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 Scottish Government Rural Payments and Services.

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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. They will provide you with your herd number at this stage.

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

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ScotMoves / ScotMoves+

ScotMoves allows for movements to be recorded within a business - that is, where there is no sale or transfer of the animals - to other farms or grazings.

ScotMoves+ is used for all other movements.

See the ScottMoves / ScottMoves+ information on the ScotEID website for more information.

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Why and 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 as 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 after 1 January 1998 must be identified with a pair of Scottish 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).

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Primary and 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 to 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 earlier.

Assimilated Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products allows the option of including a barcode on an official tag, and in some EU Member States it is compulsory. However, there is no requirement for cattle born in Great Britain to be identified with ear tags bearing a barcode, including animals going for export. It is entirely up to the importer and exporter to decide, through commercial arrangements, whether or not this is necessary.

Information on identifying cattle to export, import or move to the EU or NI can be found in 'Exporting animals' and 'Importing animals'.

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Lost and 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 number.

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

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

  • ear tag bearing the same number
  • new ear tag / number
  • 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 holding register. The certificate of registration (COR) and old-style (blue and green) passport must be returned to ScotEID 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.

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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.

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Tagging for all other herds

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

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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 (other than those under the ScotMoves system), 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 something wrong you should return the passport to ScotEID with a covering letter, 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.

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Types of passport

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

Cattle born after 28 September 1998, but before 1 August 2011, were issued with a chequebook-style passport.

Between 1 July 1996 and 28 September 1998, all cattle on a green passport should also have a COR.

Prior to 1 July 1996, all older cattle should be in possession of a COR.

All of these documents are obtainable from ScotEID.

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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 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 by a valid cattle passport / COR (there is an exception for cattle moved under the ScotMoves system).

Cattle with a COR have been restricted under the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (Scotland) Regulations 2010 to the premises where they were located due to their age and consequent TSE risk; all keepers of such cattle have been issued with restriction notices. Keepers wishing to move such 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. If you need help completing the form please contact APHA.

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How do I obtain cattle passports?

All applications for cattle passports must be made to ScotEID 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. It is an offence to have cattle without passports outside the time limits stated in 'Types of passport' above.

Passport applications may be refused by ScotEID if you apply late. If so, the animal(s) will be registered and you will receive a notice of registration; this is not a cattle passport. The animal(s) will not be eligible for slaughter for human consumption and cannot be sold or moved from the holding except under a pre-movement licence to a hunt kennel or knacker's yard. For more information see 'Cattle that have been refused passports'.

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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 holding 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 unless otherwise specified:

  • 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 (only if the ear tag 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 holding 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.

Particular care should be taken to accurately record cattle movements from a historically linked premises as you now need to comply with the ScotMoves / ScottMoves+ system. Any moves within the business to other farms or grazings must be recorded in your farm record.

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In what form should the records be kept?

The keeper can choose in which format to keep the records, as long they contain the required information and a copy can be provided when requested. Options include:

The records should be in a format approved by the Scottish Government. The keeper must produce these records to an inspector when asked to do so.

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

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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 for a farm, and three years from the end of the calendar year in which the last entry was made in any other case.

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Movement and death reporting requirements

As well as the record-keeping requirements detailed above, movements and deaths must be reported to ScotEID.

Cattle movement details must be reported within 36 hours of the movement taking place. For cattle that have single-page passports, one of the following methods must be used for reporting your movements:

  • the ScotMoves / ScotMoves+ databases (ScotEID)
  • telephoning ScotEID on 01466 794323

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

For more information on movements, and for information regarding cattle with chequebook-style passports or CORs, see 'Cattle keepers and livestock shows'.

Deaths must be notified to ScotEID within seven days. The methods listed above may be used, or alternatively the death details may be completed in the animal's passport and/or registration certificate and returned it to ScotEID.

Dead cattle may require testing for BSE. For more information see 'BSE testing of cattle'.

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Further information

The Scottish Government has published guidance on livestock identification and traceability.

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Trading Standards

For more information on the work of Trading Standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading Standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.

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In this update

Clarified the requirements on keeping a holding register. Updated ScotEID information.

Last reviewed / updated: March 2024

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Key legislation

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 often only shows 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 changes to legislation can be found by following the above links and clicking on the 'More Resources' tab.

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