In the guide

To fully understand this guidance, it is important to note the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain:

  • UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • GB: England, Scotland and Wales

This guidance is for England

When animals are to be exported, all relevant persons must ensure that they are correctly identified, in good health and accompanied by the correct documentation. There are also documentation requirements for germplasm and germinal products.

Document requirements

An export health certificate (EHC) is required for germplasm / germinal products (semen, ova and embryos), live animals and products of animal origin (POAO) when undertaking the following activities:

  • moving them through the EU and Northern Ireland (NI)
  • exporting them from GB to EU
  • moving them from GB to NI

An EHC is an official document that is signed by either an official veterinary surgeon or an authorised local authority officer. It confirms that the export meets the destination country's health requirements. Each different type of product will require a separate EHC. Additional transit EHCs may be required by each country the export moves through. An EHC is needed to move animals from GB to NI because of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which came into force on 1 January 2021.

See the GOV.UK website for more details on applying for an export health certificate.

Evidence of an annual animal health veterinary visit is required for livestock that is to be exported. This can be achieved via veterinary attestation, a template is provided on the GOV.UK website.

Customs declarations will also be required. These should be made using one of the systems below:

  • National Export System (NES). A database reporting system that enables records to be kept of the movement of goods by sea, air and land. It automatically checks for entry errors on inputs made as part of customs declarations by exporters and other relevant parties. NES is to be phased out and replaced by the Customs Declaration Service
  • Customs Declaration Service (CDS). Similar to NES, this database will be the long-term replacement for the NES database. It is already in use for products moving between NI and GB and all imports

From 30 March 2024, all customs declarations must be made using CDS instead of NES.

A journey log is a separate document that must accompany the consignment of farm livestock and unregistered horses (see below for more information on horses). This is in addition to all the other required documentation. Journey logs contain details such as the plan for the journey, place of departure, destination and transporter declaration.

Poultry export can only be undertaken by members of the Poultry Health Scheme (PHS), unless exporting fewer than 20 birds or hatching eggs to the EU or NI. Some non-EU countries require PHS membership; exporters should check the EHC for details.

Back to top

Identification requirements for livestock destined for export

Sheep and goats

Sheep and goats are subject to the same rules.

For animals that are already double tagged with UK tags (one of which must be the mandatory yellow electronic identification (EID) tag) you can add a third tag with the GB prefix.

For example:

  • existing tags: UK0123456 00001
  • third tag: GB0123456 00001

Double-tagged animals should have one tag in each ear and the third can go in either. Third tags must not be yellow or red. Lost or damaged tags can be replaced with tags bearing the GB prefix.

Single-tagged animals must be re-identified using double tags before being exported or moved to the EU or NI.


For unidentified animals being tagged for the first time, you should use double UK tags with the GB suffix - for example, UK0123456 00001 GB. One of these must be the mandatory yellow EID tag.


All tags must include the animal's individual ID number.


For those cattle that are already tagged with UK tags, you can add a third 'management' tag that has a GB prefix followed by the animal's ID number. The third GB tag can be a plastic flag-style tag or button tag of any colour.

For example:

  • existing tags: UK 111111 123456
  • third tag: GB 111111 123456

Cattle 1

For unidentified calves tagged for the first time, you can add double UK tags, one of which must have a GB suffix. These are primary and secondary tags, one in each ear. The secondary tag has the GB suffix.

For example:

  • primary tag: UK 111111 123456
  • secondary tag: UK 111111 123456 GB

Cattle 2

All tags must include the animal's individual ID number. A freeze branded 'L' is required to be applied to the hind quarters of cattle exported for slaughter.

See also the information about registering cattle imported or moved into England or Wales on the GOV.UK website.


Pigs must be identified with an ear tag or ear tattoo with a 'UK' prefix, followed by the herd mark of the departure holding and a unique individual identification number - for example, UK XY6789 1234.

Pigs moving to the EU or NI must be identified with an ear tag or tattoo with a 'UK-GB' prefix, followed by the herd mark of the departure holding and a unique individual identification number - for example, UK-GB XY6789 1234.

Exports of pigs must also be reported to the bureau service provided by AHDB Pork within three days of the animal leaving the holding.

Full identification for the pig moved must be recorded as part of the animal movement record.



To export horses (except registered horses*) into the EU from GB, horse owners must have a Government-issued supplementary travel ID from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), as well as holding a valid passport. The supplementary travel ID, horse passport and export health certificate must remain with the animal during transport.

[*Registered domestic horses are those registered with a recognised breed society or companies like the British Horse Database at Weatherbys. 'Registered domestic Equidae' does not simply mean those with horse passports.]

For information on other export rules and documentation requirements, please refer to the GOV.UK website's guidance on special rules for export horses and ponies.

Back to top

Assembly centres

When equidae, bovine, ovine, caprine and porcine animals are to be exported they need to pass through an approved assembly centre. The assembly centres arrange for the animals to be moved to the premises (usually a port or airport) from which they will leave the country.

Back to top

Pets and non-native species, including zoo residents

You can no longer use a pet passport (for dogs, cats or ferrets) that has been issued in GB for travel to an EU country or NI. You can still use a pet passport issued in an EU country or NI. More information on the requirements when travelling to an EU country or NI with your pet is available on the GOV.UK website.

Different rules apply when travelling to a non-EU country with your pet, including the need for an export health certificate. More information on the requirements for travelling to a non-EU country with your pet is available on the GOV.UK website.

Many zoo and lab animals are subject to the Balai Directive, which covers what is required to move certain animals (and their germplasm) that are not traditional livestock.

Any animal listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requires a permit or certificate for export. This documentation is also required for movements between GB and NI.

Back to top

Further information

More detailed information on exporting or moving livestock and poultry and transiting animals and animal products through GB can be found on the GOV.UK website. See also GOV.UK's collection of guidance on exporting live animals or animal products.

Back to top

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'.

Back to top

In this update

Updated information on customs declaration systems and link to new veterinary attestations.

Last reviewed / updated: January 2024

Back to top

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.

What type of feedback would you like to leave
1a-User type
2a-User type
3a-User type
4a-User type

Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

How many years have you been trading?
How many employees are there in your business?

Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.

Are you satisfied? Did this site answer your question?