Quick Help Guide to Tagging

A quick help guide to animal tagging - rules and advice about cattle tags, sheep tags, goat tags and pig tags. Further information is available from from DEFRA.


Cattle Tagging Guidelines

  • You cannot move animals off your holding without official ear tags.

  • All cattle must be double tagged with a primary and secondary tag. The primary tag has to be distance readable and therefore a minimum size is required.

  • You must not reuse ear tags or official ear tag numbers on different animals. Each animal must keep the same official ear tag number for life, unless they were either born or imported to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) before 1998 or imported into Great Britain from outside the EU (these animals will get and keep a new official UK ear tag number on arrival)

  • All dairy animals must be tagged within 36 hours and all beef animals within 20 days. You’ll need a stock of approved ear tags to use when calves are born on your holding. Read the tagging guidance on what to do after a calf is born.

Full DEFRA Guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-new-or-replacement-official-ear-tags-for-cattle


Sheep & Goat Tagging Guidelines

  • You must identify your sheep and goats: Within 6 months of birth if they’re housed overnight, within 9 months of birth if they’re not housed overnight or before you move them off their holding of birth if this is sooner. All sheep born on or after the 1st January 2015 should be Electronically tagged.

  • All lambs intended for slaughter before 12 months of age MUST be fitted with one yellow EID tag. This tag will have the farm’s flock mark on it only. These lambs can be moved to a market or abattoir as a “batch” movement and there is no requirement to record an individual number.

  • All lambs which are going to be retained as breeding sheep or kept until they are over 12 months of age, MUST be fitted with two tags one of which MUST be a yellow EID tag (breeding pairs). These tags will have the farm’s flock mark and an individual number printed on them. When these sheep are moved off the holding of birth, they have to be recorded as an individual movement, NOT a batch movement.

  • All sheep born after 1st January 2010 should have a pair of tags already fitted one of which will be a yellow EID tag. If these sheep have lost both tags, it is advisable to fit a pair of RED tags one of which must be an EID tag. This should be recorded as “tags lost” in the flock book.

  • All sheep tagged prior to 1st January 2010 (historic flock) will need to be fitted with a new pair of ear tags one of which should be an EID.

Full DEFRA Guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tag-sheep-with-ear-tags-pastern-bands-and-boluses 

Pig Tagging Guidelines

  • You must identify pigs with any of the following before they leave your holding or premises: an ear tag in either ear, a tattoo on either ear, or 2 visible slap marks (a tattoo applied to the front of both of the pig’s shoulders, with special equipment)

  • When moving a pig under 12 months old to another farm, you can use a temporary paint mark to identify it instead. You can use a mark of your choice, for example, a blue dot or a black cross .This should last until the pig reaches the destination farm.

Full DEFRA Guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pig-keepers-identify-animals-before-moving-them


Please Note: Information provided above correct as of 01/03/2024. For the most up to date information, please refer to the links to the official gov.uk website.