You must complete the annual inventory with the number of sheep and goats on your holding on 1 December 2023 and return the completed form by 31 December 2023.
1. Submitting your response
Responses can be submitted digitally at: GOV.UK | Record and submit your annual inventory or sent via hardcopy. Defra will send a letter to those who wish to send a hardcopy response.
Defra estimates that there should be roughly 73,000 responses to this inventory, with roughly 40,000 submitting their inventories on paper.
Defra is keen for as many individuals as possible to respond online to ensure the process runs smoothly, given the impact on postal services during the Christmas period.
There will also be information supplied about the Livestock Information Service and its online facilities, including its capacity to record and report any sheep and goat movements on and off your holding. This is also being recommended by Defra, to try and use the system and see whether it is viable for them.
As in previous years, Defra will be collecting keeper/holding data from the inventory, allowing it to improve its work on future policy development, as well as maintaining disease control standards.
2. Do I count sheep that are on different holdings?
You must record all your sheep (including rams and lambs) and goats under each location where they are kept. If you have sheep or goats on rented grazing or common land, these should also be included providing you retain keepership of them.
If you do not retain day to day care and control of your animals while on temporary grazing, the receiving keeper must ensure they include these animals on their inventory.
This should include all of your CPH (County Parish Holding) numbers where sheep and goats are kept. This is on section 4 of the forms, and should reflect where any kept sheep and goats are on 1 December. It is also important to ensure that any CPH numbers are up to date with the Animal and Plant Health Agency too.
You must also remember to record the annual inventory total in your holding register
3. Is the annual inventory compulsory?
It is important that the annual inventory is carried out, as it is an offence under law not to submit it.
This will remain the case even after the end of Cross Compliance and BPS payments at the end of 2023.
Failure to do so can increase your chance of a future farm visits. Failure to keep the annual inventory total in your holding register could be viewed as a significant breach and may lead to fixed penalties in the future.
4. What to do if you no longer keep sheep or goats
You must complete sections 1 and 5 on the form even if you no longer keep sheep or goats. You are required by law to tell the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) within 30 days that you are no longer keeping sheep or goats.
5. What should I do if I receive multiple forms?
If you have received multiple inventory forms, then you should complete all forms but not duplicate your responses on them.
If only one inventory form is needed in the future, then complete one form in full, and then add a comment on the subsequent forms explaining that all animals are on another inventory form. Then return both back to Defra or submit both forms online. This will prevent two forms from being sent in the future.
6. Who to contact for help
You need to call Defra for help with completion of the form. You can call Defra on 03000 600140 (Monday to Friday 9am–4.30pm) or by email at [email protected].. If you need other support relating to identification and movement the Defra helpline is available on 03459 335 577.
7. What happens post 2024?
Defra will continue inspecting 3% of registered sheep and goat holdings into 2024 (post the ending of Cross Compliance), to ensure compliance is maintained over identification and record keeping rules. These rules will continue to be legal requirements for keepers under domestic legislation and will continue to apply.
There will not be a reduction in payments due to the ending of BPS and Cross Compliance rules at the end of 2023, so while SMR 8 (the regulations outlining this, and other livestock rules) will be removed, Defra anticipates that domestic legislation maintaining those rules will be introduced at some point in 2024.
This new legislation may include fixed penalty notices being used as a means of ensuring sheep and goat records are maintained. We await further details on the approach taken.