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CPH and herd or flock numbers: a guide for smallholders

Buying or renting your own holding is an exciting moment. From a few weaners or chickens to a larger herd or flock, smallholdings can be very rewarding. However, when you consider becoming a smallholder (or even just obtaining “pet” farm animals, including pet pigs, which will be subject to the same rules) you do need to be aware of the legal requirement for a CPH (County, Parish, Holding) number for your holding or for rented land that you are using. In addition, you are likely to need a herd or flock number for your animals. What are these, and how do you go about getting them?

CPH numbers

This is an identification number for your smallholding, and is used to identify and trace the location of livestock. Although CPH is the longstanding name, it may now also be referred to as a “Location Code”. In Scotland, you can get one from your local Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (SGRPID) office.

Find your local office.

SGRPID also now have a new website at with further information.

To register, you will need:

  • The location of your land (postcode, OS grid reference or land parcel reference number).
  • Details about your tenure (owner/ year-round tenant/ seasonal tenant).
  • Your planned activities on the land.

(Note: In England, contact the Rural Payments Agency on 0345 603 7777, and in Wales, the Welsh Government Contact Centre on 0300 062 5004.)

You need to contact SGRPID for a CPH number if:

  • You keep any number of pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, alpacas or llamas.
  • You wish to apply for agricultural grants or subsidies.

If you later obtain additional land, it may be included on your CPH number as long as it is within 5 miles of your main holding. If you obtain land that already has a CPH number, you may be able to keep this number if applies to one discrete parcel of land. If it is only a small piece of an original holding, you may need to change the CPH number to a new one. Call SGRPID for advice.

Flock or herd number

This is a unique number which will be shown on the official ear tags on your animals (where needed). It is stored on a central database to record livestock movements. You can obtain one from your local Animal and Plant Heath Agency (APHA) office, (formerly known as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency or AHVLA). SGRPID will alert APHA when you register for a CPH number – in which case an APHA agent will contact you automatically to get more details to register you for your flock/herd numbers – however, if there is a delay, or you need to register quickly due to deadlines, you may prefer to contact APHA directly yourself once you receive your CPH number.

Remember, when registering for a flock or herd number, you must register your flock/herd to each holding (CPH number) that your flock or herd uses during the year – not just your “home base” holding. Sheep, cattle, pigs and goats need registered. There is no flock number for poultry – see below for the poultry rules. For camelids (alpacas, llamas, etc) there is no current requirement to register for a herd number or to individually identify camelids – however, this may change if a tuberculosis (TB) order comes into place for non-cattle species, so it is wise to keep an eye on developments in this area.

It is highly recommended that you look into the individual species requirements for applying identification numbers to your animals, including replacement tags, tattoos/slap marks for pigs or the requirements for registering animals born or bought into the group. The requirements differ between species – your local APHA office can offer advice.


If you keep more than 50 poultry, you will need to register with the Great British Poultry register. They can be contacted at the APHA Specialist Services Team in Cardiff – the poultry register line is 0800 634 1112. You do need a CPH number to keep over 50 poultry: however, the rules differ depending on whether you own other farmed livestock as well, or only poultry.

If you own other farmed livestock, register your flock with the GB Poultry Register. They will be registered to your already-existing CPH number, which you obtained from the SGRPID for your other farmed livestock.

If you only own poultry, register your flock with the GB poultry register, and they will give you a special “poultry-only” CPH number directly – so you will get a CPH number without needing to contact the SGRPID.

If you have less than 50 poultry, and no farmed livestock – you do not need a CPH number at all, and you do not need to register with anyone.

Taking on surplus stock

It is not uncommon for smallholders to be offered surplus stock from other holdings through forums or magazine adverts, sometimes stipulating removal at short notice, as space can be a problem. These can be tempting, but take time to make sure you only buy animals that are properly identified – if you don’t, it will cause you problems once they have arrived, so make sure you are aware of the identification and movement requirements for your chosen species before they reach your holding.

Applying for a movement document

Remember that any movement of animals is likely to require a report of the movement to be made to the relevant organisation. For cattle, contact the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS); for sheep, goats and for pigs contact ScotEID (paper movement documents for sheep and goats should still be sent to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU)) (all these organisations can be found online). Requirements and deadlines for applying for movement documents differ slightly between species. Even movement to shows and back is likely to require a movement document. When moving animals directly to a vet for treatment and back, no movement document and no notification is needed, although you should record the move on your own holding register.

Likewise, if you have more than one field or premises under the same CPH number (eg two fields, under five miles apart, can be included on the same holding number), you do not need a movement document to move between these – you merely need to record it on your own holding register.

Walking licenses

With regard to pet pigs in Scotland, the Scottish Government may grant a walking licence allowing a pig owner to walk them without registering each individual movement prior to the walk; however, the licence will come with stipulations including the carrying of the licence throughout each walk. It must be renewed annually and will require a set route to be used. Contact your local APHA office to apply for a licence. If you are considering pet pigs, be aware of the welfare requirements – it is recommended that pigs should be kept with at least one other pig which they get on well with: solitary pigs are to be avoided. Pet pigs – even those advertised as so-called “micro pigs” – are classified as farmed animals. Be aware that some “micro pigs” can in fact go on to grow larger and heavier than the largest dog – the phrase is unregulated and is often very inaccurate.

Further information on “micro pigs”.

Remember that there is always plenty of readily accessible advice available from your local SGRPID, APHA, the ScotEID Information Centre and SAC Consulting Solutions offices. The requirements for setting up a holding or for registering movements may look daunting at first; it is not uncommon to find groups of new smallholders on forum threads worrying over finding the correct information. Make a point of locating your own local offices for these organisations, plus the movement databases relevant to your animals, and note down their contact details in an address book at the start of the process - it’s all about knowing who to ask! For further information and guidance on livestock identification and movement reporting requirements go to:

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