Changes to cattle identification and traceability – NFU response

16 November 2023

A herd of Angus cattle in Worcestershire grazing in the field.

Defra is consulting on changes to bovine identification, registration, and movement in England. Read more about the consultation and the NFU's response.

The consultation sought views on replacing the current CTS (Cattle Tracing System) with a modern livestock traceability service and simplifying the regulations covering cattle identification and movement reporting.

Whilst the current system remains effective, it is unable to accommodate further development, hence there is a need for a new, modern system.

There is an ambition is to deliver a world-leading Livestock Information Service (LIS), simplifying legislation and allowing the introduction of bovine eID (Electronic Identification).

The proposals within this consultation aim to reduce the administrative burden on livestock keepers and also seeks to encourage cattle keepers to engage with digital registration and movement reporting.

Key areas

The key areas covered in this consultation are:


“This consultation presents an opportunity to help shape cattle movement regulations alongside the development of a new modern traceability service in England.”

NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay

  • Simplifying the regulations and a fairer and more proportionate enforcement system
  • Introduction of BeID (Bovine Electronic Identification)
  • Changes to holding registers
  • Removing passports for cattle fitted with BeID
  • Movement reporting – whole movement reporting, options to report movements in advance (pre-notification), voluntary option to provide transportation details
  • Changes to allow amendments for late registration of calves

Further detail on the proposals can be found online at: GOV.UK | Changes to Bovine Identification, Registration, and Movement in England

NFU position

NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay welcomed the consultation as an opportunity to shape cattle movement regulations and gave support to the transition towards BeID, stating that the introduction of new technology will “futureproof the sector” and “deliver accurate recording at the speed of commerce”.

He said: “The existing Cattle Tracing Service operated by BCMS needs to be replaced with a more proportionate and simpler digital service for cattle farmers and the supply chain.

“The NFU will be discussing with members along with the livestock and dairy boards to seek their views over the next eight-weeks.”

16 November 2023

NFU gives support to the introduction of bovine eID tags and new Livestock Information Service

The NFU has responded to Defra's consultation in support of the introduction of EID tags for cattle, as well as the implementation of a multi species LIS (Livestock Information Service) to replace existing services. 

The response expressed support for the numerous benefits for farmers and the wider supply chain that will support traceability, reduce errors and improve the health and safety of livestock keepers/handlers and the livestock themselves. 

The NFU also gave support to the use of UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) technology due to the numerous benefits it offers when compared to LF (Low Frequency) tags. 

The LIS combined with UHF BeID offers the best option to deliver accurate traceability of cattle, safer cattle handling, and supports other technological advancements such individual animal management in a wider variety of situations, because of the ability to read multiple animals at greater distances simultaneously.

UHF tags will offer many benefits for those carrying out official visits to farms, markets and abattoirs whether this is to check compliance with movement reporting, routine TB testing or responding to a more significant disease outbreak. Having the ability to read tags faster and at greater distance offers huge time savings.

In addition, the NFU called for alignment across all nations of Great Britain for the rollout of bovine EID for new registrations and that digital services in each country of GB actively facilitate trade. 

The response also calls on Defra to consult industry on the tag frequency/technology that is ultimately adopted following on-farm bovine EID trials. 

NFU members can sign in and read the full response to the consultation at: NFU response – Cattle identification, registration, and movement consultation

15 November 2023

Consultation closed

The deadline to submit a response to this consultation has now passed. 

Defra aims to publish the results in 2024.

25 September 2023

Explaining the LIS and BeID

The consultation from Defra centres around the introduction of the LIS (Livestock Information Service) for cattle and the use of BeID (Bovine Electronic Identification) tags. 

Bovine eID / BeID (Bovine Electronic Identification)

Bovine eID or BeID stands for “Bovine Electronic Identification” and is the new proposed system to identify cattle. These would replace the traditional ear tags used on cattle.

It is hoped that a new electronic system would promote safer handling of cattle, reduce errors in the reporting of data and lead to potential improvements to farm productivity and animal husbandry.

Defra proposes that all new-born calves are tagged with a BeID. For calves with BeID tags, keepers will no longer need to keep, locate, and manually update paper cattle passports. It is hoped this will also allow faster processing through the supply chain.

Proposals to potentially retag the existing herd with Bovine eID tags are under consideration and will be communicated later.

Under the proposals, either LF (Low Frequency) or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) technology RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) could be used. The tags would have an RFID microtag embedded into them which would carry the same number printed on the tag and forms the official identification.

Technical information on BeID

To successfully introduce bovine eID, the current numbering string used for cattle identification would change to a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) number, compliant with ICAR (International Committee for Animal Recording) and ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards.

To adhere to these standards, the identification numbering string for bovine animals is either the two-letter alpha country code (GB) or the three-digit numeric country code (826) and a unique code for the animal consisting of a maximum 12 digits. There will be no check digit, as is currently the case on current cattle tags.

The new ID number will consist of a zero prefix, a six digit herd number, followed by a five-digit identification number that starts at 70000.

This will provide 30,000 available numbers per holding. When a keeper reaches the maximum tag number of 99999, a new herd number will be allocated to them, and the identification number will start again at 70000.

G B 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 0 0 0

Table 1: A table showing the numbering format for newborn calves written on the tag.

8 2 6 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 0 0 0

Table 2: A table showing the numbering format held on an BeID chip.

C = Country coder, S = Series number, H = Herd number, A = Animal number

Livestock Information Service

The LIS (Livestock Information Service) is an existing IT platform that provides digital traceability data for sheep, goats, and commercial deer. Under the proposals of Defra’s consultation, cattle will be added to this platform.

It is hoped that this platform will avoid any duplication of data that is included in both holding registers and the current CTS, that it will help to “protect public and animal health, maintains consumer confidence, and delivers more focussed support for the livestock industry”.

Information held on the LIS will be accessible in “close to real time” by anyone authorised to do so. This will remove the need to keep physical passports for electronically identified cattle. It will be possible to amend or correct records in certain circumstances.

The LIS will enable keepers to record whole movements, with both starting location and end destination. This will be reported by the sending keeper, who will provide the point of departure and destination CPS (County Parish Holding) numbers, individual ID numbers, and date of movement.

When cattle arrive at their destination, the receiving keeper will check the details and confirm the move has taken place. If there are any issues, the receiving keeper will have opportunity to amend, query, or decline the movement report.

The LIS will also give keepers the option to pre-notify movements and report additional information on transport, such as haulier and the registration number of the vehicle used to transport the cattle. It is hoped this will all allow keepers to provide details of planned moves at a time that suits them. 

Further detail on the proposals outlined by Defra can be found at: GOV.UK | Changes to Bovine Identification, Registration, and Movement in England - Consultation document

22 September 2023

Defra launches consultation

This consultation is open to the public in England, with Defra particularly interested to hear from those who may be directly affected by the proposals, including, but not limited to livestock keepers, farmers, livestock markets, abattoirs, collection centres, fallen stock operators, trade associations, ear tag suppliers, and hauliers, as well as non-governmental organisations with an interest in cattle.

The consultation aims to reduce the number of relevant regulations from 13 to just one piece of regulation.

This will help industry understand what is required and will help to reduce errors. Defra want to introduce a more proportionate system of enforcement so that livestock keepers are not penalised for genuine mistakes, where these can be corrected.

Defra propose to bring the current regulations and retained EU legislation into one comprehensive regulation. This will use clear language helping livestock keepers to understand the requirements and reduce the number of offences and deadlines.

Feedback was sought from NFU members throughout October and November 2023 through an online survey, a member webinar and a presentation at NFU Council on 17 October.

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  • 22 September 2023: Defra launches its consultation, seeking views on it's aims to simplify the process for cattle owners and to create a fairer and more proportionate system.
  • 16 November 2023: Following member feedback, the NFU responded to Defra's consultation in support of the introduction of eID tags and a new Livestock Information Service.