Livestock identification

Cattle and sheep grazing calmly in the British countryside is an iconic image of UK agriculture. Whatever the challenges or opportunities Brexit creates, livestock will continue to be an integral part of many members’ businesses.

While there is still uncertainty around exactly what any deal, negotiated or otherwise, will mean for agriculture and trade as a whole there are changes afoot to the way livestock identification and movements will be administered in the future. This article gives you a heads up on government’s plans for a world leading traceability system for England’s livestock sector with Welsh and Scottish administrations likely to follow the same system in due course. Members are reminded that there are still significant details that are yet to be decided so are advised to keep an eye on the CLA’s Weekly News emails, future Land and Business editions and CLA social media outlets to stay informed.

What is happening?

Through collaborative working with the industry and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, Defra will introduce a new online livestock database to replace all current bovine, ovine and equine sheep registers beginning with cattle in late 2019 in England. To do this it will be necessary to electronically identify (EID) all animals to enable them to be monitored on the new system which will be known as the Livestock Information System (LIS). Sheep will begin to be transitioned from late 2020. There are ongoing discussions between Defra and the devolved administrations as to how EID and LIS can be introduced in their respective livestock sectors and to ensure any English system is ‘future proofed’. The options for transition from the current system to the new LIS will be subject to a formal government consultation at some time in 2019 and there remains ongoing discussion between other organisations, the CLA and Defra to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

What are the benefits?

While the development if the system is still in a relatively early stage, once the LIS is introduced it is envisaged there could be many potential benefits. For the farmer he or she would be able to know exactly where any purchased animals have come from, their veterinary treatment records, dam and sire records, carcass quality and where it is ultimately sold. For the consumer it will be possible to see the production model of the animal product purchased, the veterinary treatments and movements of the animal. For government and other agencies, it will be easier to control and monitor disease outbreaks and demonstrate the high standards of livestock production in the country.

What is the CLA doing? 

The CLA team has been engaged in numerous discussions with Defra and other farming organisations. Recently the CLA hosted a roundtable discussion with members and Defra to discuss the implications of any new traceability system and we will continue to meet bilaterally with Defra as any new policy is developed. The Welsh Government has its own industry and government working group which the CLA is part of.

The CLA is supportive of the move towards the EID of all livestock and the multi-species platform to ensure full farm to fork traceability with the caveat that there is continued partnership with those affected and there is support for farmers to make any changes. If you wish to give your view on how a new system may affect your business please contact Land Use Policy Adviser Fraser McAuley ( and keep an eye out on future CLA publications on this subject when there is more definitive information.

What you can do to prepare:

  • Consider how the need to EID tag all your livestock would affect your business
  • Assess your livestock handling facilities. Not only will improving your facilities make any future tagging requirements easier, business as usual tasks such as TB testing, weighing and monitoring stock and foot trimming will become much easier and more importantly, safer.
  • Only order enough tags for your immediate needs in preparation of change in the next two years.


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