Guidance: Keep a holding register for cattle to record births, movements and deaths

British Cattle Movement Service

June 28
16:12 2023

If you keep cattle, including bison and buffalo, you must keep a holding register (also known as a herd register or farm records) to record:

You must keep a separate register for each of your holdings.

You must keep your register up to date and available if an inspector asks to check it.

By law you must keep an accurate register. Keeping these records protects the health of your livestock. It also helps to trace animals.

When you must update your holding register

You must update your holding register within:

  • 36 hours of a movement on or off a holding
  • 36 hours of replacing an ear tag, if the ear tag number has changed
  • 7 days of the birth of a dairy animal
  • 30 days of the birth of all other cattle
  • 7 days of a death

You must update your holding register within 36 hours of tagging with a new official ear tag number for cattle:

  • born or imported into Great Britain before 1 January 1998 and the official ear tag number has changed
  • imported from outside the EU

What you must record in your holding register

By law, for each animal your holding register must contain the:

  • official ear tag number
  • date of birth
  • sex
  • official cattle breed code
  • genetic dams official ear tag number for animals born on your holding
  • surrogate dams official ear tag number for animals born on your holding (only if a surrogate gave birth to the calf)
  • date of any movements on and off your holding (including if its lost or stolen)
  • county parish holding (CPH) number or the name and address of the keeper where it has moved from or to
  • date of death if the animal dies on your holding

You must also record the animals original:

You can choose to record:

  • the sires official ear tag number if known
  • a running total of cattle on your holding

What you can use as a holding register

You can choose how to record the information about your cattle. For example, you could use:

How long to keep your holding register

From 31 December of the year you last made an entry, you must keep your holding register for:

  • 10 years if you have a farm
  • 3 years if its for a showground, market, abattoir or collection centre

If you are unsure how long to keep your holding register, contact the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).

British Cattle Movement Service
Telephone (England): 0345 050 1234
Telephone (Wales): 0345 050 3456
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

What else you need to do

You must report to the BCMS by the deadlines any:

You must also keep records of any veterinary medicines used on your cattle. You can choose how to keep these records. There is a section in the template holding register that you can use.

More information on what you must do when keeping cattle, bison and buffalo.

Published 6 May 2014
Last updated 28 June 2023 +show all updates
  1. Added translation

  2. Clarified what information you need to record in your holding register and when you need to do this. The template holding register you can use for your records has been put on a separate page.

  3. This guidance has been updated to show it no longer applies to Scotland.

  4. Removed references to contacting either BCMS or local authority for copies of herd register.

  5. Format of blank holding register updated to be more screen and printer-friendly (hrb1 replaced with hrb1a.)

  6. Updated herd register added

  7. Updated 'the dams ear tag number' text

  8. First published.

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: