Essential Information for New Breeders

All sheep are governed by a myriad of legislation and rules which govern animals kept for food including their traceability, welfare and transport. This page provides some basic guidance as a point of reference, but is not intended to be exhaustive. Council members and fellow flock keepers will be able to help with many issues.

The following checklist should help you be aware of what you will need to do.

Breed Standard & ZSA Rules and Regulations

A good starting point to familiarise yourself with is the Zwartbles breed standard and rules of the society.

Defra Rules

Rules do change and they also vary in different parts of the UK. The best advice is check with the DEFRA website The Animal Disease, Animal Welfare and Livestock Movements, ID & tracing pages are all relevant. For Scotland go to and For Northern Ireland go to For Republic of Ireland go to

Register With DEFRA and Obtain a County Parish Holding Number (CPH)

Whether you keep a few paddock grazers or a commercial flock you need to be registered with DEFRA. Before moving livestock to your holding you need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for the land where the livestock will be kept. If you don’t already have a CPH number then you will need to phone the Rural Payment Agency on 0845 603 777 and ask to be allocated an Agricultural Holding Reference Number (Holding Number) for your land. This is also applicable to rented land.

Flock Number

Next you need to register with your local DEFRA Animal Health Office, phone 0118 959 6695 (DEFRA – Animal Health) and ask to be allocated a Flock Number. You will need the Holding Number to get this. This is the UK flock number that will go on the ear tags of any sheep that you breed. They will also provide a helpful booklet on sheep husbandry. Having a Flock Number a means that you are now a “Registered Keeper of Sheep” and will need to aware of current legislation and requirements. These include:

  • Welfare legislation and codes of practice
  • Animal Identification requirements
  • Animal Movement requirements
  • Animal Transport requirements
  • Record keeping requirements
  • Disposal of dead animals

Codes of Practice

All the welfare codes of practice and sheep identification rules that you need can be found at .

All information regarding MV Accreditation is available from SRUC Premium Sheep & Goat Health Schemes at Quick links are available from the home page including a link to a list of all the MV Accredited flocks in the UK. The majority of shows and society sales require your sheep to be MV Accredited.


Electronic Identification or EID – Animal identification requirements have all changed again and from 1st Jan 2010 all Zwartbles sheep will need to carry double ID tags, one of which must be electronic and must be yellow. The UK number and individual ID are recorded on the chip and also printed on the tag. The secondary tag can be any colour except yellow, black or red and must also show the UK number and individual ID but can also contain management information, e.g. Flock number and or a year letter. All stock destined for breeding must be identified in this way and any animal that is kept longer than one year of age. It is not be necessary to buy the equipment that reads the electronic tags. There are also some rules on missing and replacement tags if an animal loses one tag, this can be replaced with an identical tag (if it loses an electronic tag, it will be possible to order an identical one from the tag supplier). If still on the holding of birth it will be acceptable to replace both tags with new ones and to record this in the holding register. If it loses both tags and cannot be identified, or if it is not on the holding of birth, the replacement tags must be red. It is worth checking Defra rules on identification on a regular basis.

Record Keeping Requirements

The paper work that you are going to need to keep includes Animal Movement Licensees (AML) Contact your local Trading Standard Office (this is a part of your County Council) and ask for some Animal Movement License, (AML1) forms, you can usually get these from your County Council website and they are also available from your local livestock market office. A form has to be completed every time animals move on to or off your holding. You need to send a copy of the AML to Trading Standards or Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) in Scotland and keep a copy for your records. Movements between land parcels with the same Holding (CPH) number, within 5 miles of the main holding, and the ownership/keepership of the animals remains the same, need not be recorded or reported. Movements between different CPH numbers where the ownership/keepership remains the same can be batch recorded (e.g. 20 sheep, UK123456 moved from A to B), these movements to be recorded on an AML1 and in the holding register. Movements between different CPH numbers where ownership/keepership changes will require individual animal’s numbers to be recorded on the AML1 and in the holding register.

Holding Register

You will be issued with a new style Holding Register when you become a sheep keeper. This is a running record of all animals, births and deaths and records all sheep movements onto and off a holding. It is required for disease control purposes.

Medicine Book

You must record any medicines you administer to your stock, when, what dosage and the source of the medicines. This is useful because it also helps you to keep track of the dates on your worming and any other treatments. Importantly it also helps you to comply with the withdrawl period of medicines when sending stock for slaughter i.e. the safe amount of time between vaccination and dosing to sending stock away destined for human consumption.

Transport Rules

If you are going to transport your sheep and depending on how far, you may also require a Certificate of Competence for Transporting Livestock. Go to to find out more. Younger people who took their driving test later than January 1997 will also need to take a trailer-towing test; this one is a DVL requirement.

Animal Disposal

In event of a death, you will need to locate your nearest incinerator or fellmonger. It is no longer legal to bury a sheep or even a lamb. Your vet should be able to tell you where to go, if you are not already registered, you should do so with a local Veterinary Practice and keep a note of their out-of-hours/emergency number.

If you have never kept sheep before, then you should seek out some training on basic welfare tasks and the shepherd’s calendar. Try your local Agricultural College or Smallholders Association, most flock owners will be happy to help.

Updated: March 15, 2014 — 4:06 pm