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Livestock movements, identification and tracing: cattle - reporting of movement, slaughter and death

Movement reporting

The Cattle Tracing System (CTS) database records all the movements of cattle registered or imported into Great Britain. European legislation requires cattle keepers report both the "off" holding and "on" to next holding movements to the database, as well as in their own herd registers. Fast and accurate reporting of movements to the database allows traceability of cattle from birth to entry to the human food chain, and in the event of a disease outbreak .


Notifying period

Keepers of cattle are legally obliged to notify movements of cattle within 3 days of the event, and the death of an animal within 7 days.

What is a cattle "movement"?

Under the GB system, any movement of an animal comprises an “off” movement followed by an “on” movement.

Presently, keepers are only required to report one half of the movement . So, for example, if an animal leaves a holding the consigning keeper must report the "off" movement, signifying the animal has left the holding. It is the responsibility of the then receiving keeper to report the "on" movement, signifying the animal is now on their holding. Once the movement of an animal is notified to CTS, the database matches it with the other half of the movement and checks they correlate. Any incomplete or incompatible movements are investigated at the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).

Cattle moving to from one holding to another, including markets or slaughterhouses, must be accompanied by a valid passport.

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Types of cattle movements

The following movements of cattle must be reported to BCMS:

  • On and off farms
  • To and from markets
  • To slaughterhouses

If a keeper has previously contacted BCMS and recorded a link between holdings on CTS then the movement of cattle between these holdings does not have to be reported to the BCMS. It must however still be recorded in the herd register.

Failure to report movements

It is an offence for a keeper not to notify BCMS of the movement of any cattle they are responsible for. Movement restrictions can be imposed on cattle if the notification requirements are not complied with.

How are the BCMS to be notified about cattle movements?

There is a choice:

  • CTS Online
  • CTS web services
  • Agent access
  • Movement cards

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Sending cattle for slaughter

Cattle may only be slaughtered in approved and licensed slaughterhouses. When they are sending cattle for slaughter, keepers must notify BCMS of the “off” movement from their holding. Cattle going to slaughter must be correctly identified and accompanied by their valid passport. The passport will be checked against the animal’s ear tag number by the abattoir operator prior to and after slaughter.

Animals that are not properly identified cannot be slaughtered for human consumption. Cattle sent to slaughter without the proper identification and valid passport may be destroyed without compensation and without any notification being given.

When the animal has been slaughtered the operator will then enter the details of the death into the back page of the passport and hand to the operator or a representative in the slaughterhouse. They will then return the passport to BCMS to record the animal as dead on CTS.

Private slaughter

Private slaughter is the killing of an animal by the owner for their personal consumption. Please ring the Food Standards Agency for guidance on 020 7276 8377.

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Page last modified: 2 October 2009
Page published: 12 February, 2007