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Buying and Selling Goats, Sheep or Pigs

Many people harbour dreams of living a simple life of self sufficiency, and nothing typifies this lifestyle more than buying a couple of goats, sheep or pigs and keeping them on a smallholding in the country.

However, even the good life can involve some paper work and not many people know that you have to be registered with Defra if you want to buy, sell or keep such animals, even as pets. We spoke to Jane Ross of Martins Park who explained what was involved in registering your herd.

goat lying on a wood in a field

So why are there special rules for keeping goats, sheep and pigs compared with other pets?

The movement and ownership rules were introduced in 2001 as a result of the problems with Foot and Mouth Disease and it enables Defra to track the location of all farmed animals. Defra are very strict on these new rules and the process can be intimidating. However, it is actually straightforward and simple to comply with the legislation and there is no cost involved.

So what’s the first step someone needs to go through before they buy one of these animals?

Before moving livestock onto or off your land you need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for the land where the livestock will be kept. To apply for a CPH number you need to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on 0845 6037777. Once you have your CPH number you can move the livestock to your holding under a General Licence.

And once you’ve moved the herd to your land?

The next step is to register your livestock with Defra. You need to contact your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO). You will be asked for your CPH number as a reference and will be able to register your livestock over the phone.

When your livestock are registered, a herd mark will automatically be created. The Defra herd mark provides a quick and effective means of identifying premises from which livestock have moved. It is unique, kept on a single database and available to inspectors for rapid tracing. The AHDO will send you a registration document which will contain your personal details, CPH number and herd mark.

All animals must also have an identifying ear tag, and are allocated according to the Ear Tag Allocation System (ETAS). The tags indicate the country, the herd mark and a number that is unique to the individual animal. New legislation on double ear tagging of goats took effect on 11 January 2008. Any animal born on or after that date or not yet officially identified by that date, should be tagged according to these new rules.

Once you are registered, is that it?

Not quite. If any of your details change, you must tell your AHDO within one month of the change.

Also, you must fill in a Movement Document whenever an animal is moved from one site to another.  An AML1 form is required for sheep and goats, and must be sent to the local AHDO within three days. A pad of required movement forms for future use is available from them.

Pig movements must now be notified using the online eAML2 system.

A Holding Register/movement book must be kept, that identifies the holding, the herd number, the individual ear tag information of the animals, and any movements to or from the holding. It must be accurate and up to date, and Defra may ask to see it from time to time.

Do you have any other tips for the novice buyer?

If the seller does not ask you for your holding number as part of the sale process, you SHOULD NOT go through with the deal. The animals in question are probably not legitimate, do not belong to the seller or may be stolen (unfortunately there is a lot of livestock being stolen at present). There are very high fines for buying livestock without the proper paperwork.

For more information and help on registering your herd, see the web site.

Our thanks go to Jane for her time in helping to clarify this for Preloved members.


Justine Dench

Justine Dench

Creative Editor

Justine Dench is the creative editor for Preloved. Her key personal interests include sustainability, conservation and animal welfare. Justine also has interests in photography, music, gardening and home interiors.