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Identification and registration of ovines and caprines

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Identification and registration of ovines and caprines

The European Union (EU) puts in place systems for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals. The advantage of this system is traceability. It enables, in particular, each animal to be individually identified and traced back to its holding of birth.


Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 of 17 December 2003 establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 and Directives 92/102/EEC and 64/432/EEC [See amending act(s)].


A system of individual traceability enables each ovine and caprine animal to be traced from the moment of birth and through any intra-Community trade in which it is involved.


All ovine and caprine animals born on holdings within the Community are identified by:

  • a first means of identification, consisting of an electronic transponder or an eartag approved by the competent national authorities, affixed to one ear, made of non-degradable material, tamper-proof and easy to read throughout the lifetime of the animal without causing it any discomfort. The mark must be easily visible at a distance and include a code for the Member State where the holding is located and an individual code;
  • a second means of identification, which can be an electronic transponder for animals that already have an eartag as a first means of identification an eartag, a mark on the pastern or a tattoo for animals that already have an electronic transponder as the first means of identification (the tattoo may not be used for animals involved in intra-Community trade).

The Member States may authorise an alternative system for animals that are intended for slaughter before the age of 12 months and that are not intended for intra-Community trade or export to third countries. In this case, the animals must have only one eartag bearing the country code and the code of the holding of origin.

Identification must be carried out within six months following the birth of the animal and before it leaves its holding of origin. The Member States may extend this period to nine months for animals kept in extensive or free-range farming conditions. For animals imported from third countries, identification must take place on the holding of destination within a maximum of 14 days.

Register, movement document and databases

Any person responsible for animals, even on a temporary basis, must keep a register containing certain information contained in the movement document that accompanies all groups of animals every time they are moved.

The movement documents may vary from one Member State to another. Certain countries may require additional information which will be added to the information required by this Regulation. The movement documents are kept for at least three years. They are optional if the Member State has a fully operational centralised computer database. Every model of the movement document used must be sent to the Commission and to the other Member States.

The national competent authorities keep a central register containing information on all of the holdings on the national territory. This information relates to the holding, the people responsible for the animals, the activity, the type of production and the species kept.

From 1 January 2008, in each Member State, a computerised database must contain certain information relating to the holdings and animal movements. Animal movements must be notified by the breeder to the competent authority within seven days.

From 31 December 2009 it will be compulsory to apply an electronic identification system. This obligation does not apply however to animals born before that date and until 31 December 2014. Member States with at least 600 000 ovine and caprine animals can make these electronic systems optional for animals that are not involved in intra-Community trade.

In order to ensure compliance with this regulation, controls are performed by the Member States and by experts sent into the field by the Commission. Penalties are also imposed in the event of any infringement.


The Committee is assisted by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.


This regulation was drawn up in order to strengthen Community law as regards the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals. A similar effort was made in the bovine sector, with the adoption of the Regulation establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 21/2004



OJ L 5 of 9.1.2004.

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006



OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006.

Regulation (EC) No 1560/2007



OJ L 340 of 22.12.2007.

Implementing regulation (EU) No 45/2012



OJ L 17 of 20.1.2012.

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.


Commission Decision 2006/968/EC of 15 December 2006 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 as regards guidelines and procedures for the electronic identification of ovine and caprine animals [Official Journal L 401 of 30.12.2006].

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1505/2006 of 11 October 2006 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 as regards the minimum level of checks to be carried out in relation to the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals (Text with EEA relevance) [Official Journal L 280 of 12.10.2006].

Commission Regulation (EU) No 506/2010 of 14 June 2010 amending the Annex to Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 as regards ovine and caprine animals kept in zoos [Official Journal L 149 of 15.06.2010].

517/2013 of 13 May 2013 adapting certain regulations and decisions in the fields of free movement of goods, freedom of movement for persons, company law, competition policy, agriculture, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, transport policy, energy, taxation, statistics, trans-European networks, judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security, environment, customs union, external relations, foreign, security and defence policy and institutions, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia. [Official Journal L 158 of 10.06.2013].

Last updated: 21.04.2014