Owning a smallholding is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, especially as people spend more time at home. But did you know that whether you own one animal or a thousand animals, the rules around the movement of livestock are the same?

All livestock laws in the UK are governed by DEFRA and this is your source for the most up to date information to ensure you stay on the correct side of the law. The information in this article mainly covers the rules for England so if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, it’s worth checking any details online. 

Before you begin….

The first step to owning livestock is to apply for a County Parish Holding number, or CPH number. These are provided by the Rural Payments Agency and should be obtained before you bring any animals onto the land. The number will cover the area in which you intend to keep the animals which may include your home, outbuildings or fields close by. 

Once you have your CPH number, you will then need to register the livestock themselves with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). This must be done within 30 days of the animals arriving and will lead to you being given a herd or flock number. 

Both the CPH number and your herd or flock number will be used to record and monitor the movements of the animals when transported off or onto your premises. 

What counts as ‘movement’?

Generally, any time an animal is moved out of the area governed by it’s CPH to another location, it is classed as a movement. This may be from one farm to another, to a market, to a show or to a slaughterhouse. Normally, taking an animal to a vet for emergency treatment does not class as a movement for reporting purposes. 

What do I need to do if I want to move my animals?

There are a range of different licenses and regulations, for different situations.

In most circumstances, the movement of livestock in England is permitted under a ‘general licence’. 

In order to comply with the licence, owners must meet certain conditions:

  • The animals must be inspected by the owner to ensure there are no signs of any notifiable diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease. If there is any suspicion of disease, the APHA must be informed and no movement will be allowed. 
  • The vehicle and trailer used to transport the animals must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 
  • All the animals must be properly identified
  • For sheep and pigs, a movement document must also be completed. 

The general licence also allows for animals of different species to travel together and in most cases, will allow for multiple pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as scheduled stops. It is worth noting that if you own pigs and wish to take them for a walk, this is not covered under the general licence and a specific walking licence will be needed. 

Any movement of livestock must also be recorded, either on paper or more usually, online. 

  • For cattle, all movements should be reported to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) within 3 days of the move and recorded on the animal’s passport
  • For sheep, you must notify the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS).
  • For pigs, it’s slightly different in that you must ‘pre-notify’ the authorities about any movements which is most easily done by using the Electronic Animal Movement Licensing system online (eAML2). However, this is not necessary when taking pigs to market as the market themselves should arrange the movement notification. 

With all livestock, any movement should also be recorded in your on-farm holding register within 36 hours of the activity. 

In addition, you must also abide by what is known as a ‘standstill period’ when moving animals. 

This is a specified length of time after an animal has been moved onto land, during which no animals can move off that land. The duration of the standstill period varies amongst species – 

  • For cattle and sheep, it’s 6 days. This means that after any cattle, sheep, goats or pigs have been moved onto a piece of land, no cattle or sheep can move off it for those 6 days. 
  • For pigs, there are two rules – if other pigs have been moved onto the land, no pigs can move off it for 20 days. If cattle, sheep or goats have been moved on, then the 6 day rule applies as above. 

There are exceptions to this rule including if an animal is being moved for certain breeding purposes, requires veterinary treatment or is going straight to a slaughterhouse. 

The purpose of the standstill period is to allow for any signs of illness in the animals to become apparent before they are mixed with current stock and helps to limit the risk of diseases spreading around the country. 

Is there anything specific I need to do for the journey itself?

Anyone who transports animals over any distance, ought to be familiar with the current laws which aim to protect the welfare of the animals during the journey. They involve 

ensuring the animals are fit to travel, ensuring the vehicle and trailer are suitable for purpose and in good condition, allowing the animals suitable access to feed and water and scheduling rest stops when needed. Depending on the distance of the journey and the reason for it, there may also be additional licenses and paperwork required, though this would normally apply to larger scale businesses. 

Why are there so many rules?

The rules around moving livestock are in place for two main reasons – animal welfare and disease control. By completing the appropriate paperwork it ensures that all animal movements can be traced if necessary and therefore hopefully prevent any mass disease outbreaks such as the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001, after which many of these regulations were drawn up.

Diseases don’t discriminate between animals from a smallholding and commercial farm animals. This is why most rules apply across the board and allow us to uphold high animal welfare and health statuses for UK farm produce. The system may seem complicated at first but don’t be daunted. Help and guidance is easily available from your vet or from DEFRA themselves.

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