Livestock movements, identification and tracing: cattle - passports

When to apply for a passport, and deadline

All cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a valid cattle passport. This applies whether the cattle are male, female, dairy or beef.

Passports must accompany the animal in all movements.

All applications for cattle passports must be made to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) within seven days of tagging. This gives all keepers a maximum of 27 days in which to tag and register the birth/apply for a passport.

It is very important that keepers of cattle ensure that passport applications are made within the time limits allowed. Late applications for passports will be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances to consider.


BCMS Enables Cattle Keepers to Opt Out of receiving Paper Application Forms

After listening to customers who use CTS Online and farm software packages, the British Cattle Movement Service has changed its computer system to allow cattle keepers to no longer receive paper applications forms.

Recent figures for the return of paper application forms have shown a significant drop as more and more keepers choose to use CTS Online and CTS Web services to report births, movements and unregistered deaths of cattle.  Only 30% of calves are now registered using paper, and figures for last year show only 34% of the paper application forms sent out were returned.

Using ‘e’ channels is already a quicker more reliable and accurate way to apply for calf registration, and it is hoped that this move will also provide environmental savings.

Keepers who wish to opt out can e-mail BCMS at, or contact their Helpline (English 0845 050 1234, Welsh 0845 050 3456).  BCMS will still be able to send blank forms in an emergency, if for example a keeper is having computer or internet problems.  Keepers can go back to receiving forms at any time upon request.


Applying for passports

For more information on cattle passports and how to complete an application please refer to the Keepers’ Handbook or visit the BCMS website.


Why all cattle must have a passport

Cattle passports were introduced in the UK from 1 July 1996 for cattle born or imported from that date to improve cattle identification and traceability. It also formed part of the Government’s strategy to eradicate BSE and to lifting the export ban imposed by the Commission in March 1996.

The passport is a movement document. It enables the movements of individual cattle to be traced throughout their life. Future buyers and inspectors can also see at a glance where an animal has been during its life. This level of traceability is vital to ensure consumer confidence in the safety and origin of their food.

Each passport provides a unique match to the identification and origin of the animal and lists the movements of that particular animal. The passport remains with the animal throughout its life.


Reasons for the passport deadline

EU Regulations govern the deadlines by which Member States must ensure identification and tracing rules are complied with. Regulations state that birth registration must be made within 7 days of the birth of the animal, or 7 days after the animal has been tagged. GB adopts the latter. Keepers are thereby given the maximum 20 days in which to tag their animals and a further 7 days after to register the birth and apply for a passport. There is no scope to extend the deadline beyond 27 days.

Accurate and early registration provides that every animal arriving at slaughter is the correct age (under 30 months old), is BSE free and therefore fit for human consumption. Without full certainty of the date of birth and the link between calf and mother this would not be possible.


Cattle without passports

An animal that has been refused a passport may not move from the holding unless under license and only then must go direct to a knackers yard or hunt kennel to be destroyed. Animals without passports may not be slaughtered for home consumption or go into the human food chain under any circumstance.

If you need a licence to move an animal please call the BCMS helpline for a movement licence for cattle.



The requirements for passport application are set out in Article 6(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 and Regulation 13 of the Cattle Identification Regulations, as amended. Late application procedures are set out in Regulation 13(4). The penalties for failing to comply are set out in Regulation 34 and can also be found in the section on law.


Implications for markets and abattoirs

Implications for markets

In the case of animals moving through markets with the new style cattle passport, markets are required to complete the movement summary section in the passport and notify the BCMS of a movement through the market. The movement can be notified electronically or by a movement card. In the case of animals moving through markets with the old green cattle passport, the market only needs to complete the movement summary section on the passport.

Implications for abattoirs

In the case of animals moving to abattoirs with the new style cattle passport, the abattoir is required to notify the movement of the animal onto their premises either electronically or using a movement card. They will also need to notify movements of animals leaving their premises if the animals move off without being slaughtered.

Abattoirs only need to complete the movement summary section of either the new style passport or the old style green passport if the animal moves off the premises without being slaughtered .

When animals with the new style cattle passport are slaughtered the slaughterhouse operator must complete the death details in the back of the passport. In the case of animals with the old style green cattle passport, the passport will be stamped at the slaughterhouse to indicate the date and place of slaughter. All cattle passports for slaughtered animals, whether the old or new style, will be returned to the BCMS via the Meat Hygiene Service.



To ensure traceability is achieved and that cattle can be declared fit for export, animals must be correctly identified as follows:

Further information about the procedures to export is available on the international trade pages.


Page last modified: 3 September, 2009
Page published: 12 February, 2007