The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has proposed a new digital system to remove paper processes from the bovine registration system.

The department has launched an eight-week consultation on an updated system, which will run until November 15, 2023.

The proposals would mean that the British Cattle Movement Service – which allows the government to identify and locate livestock in the event of an animal disease outbreak or food safety incident – would become digitalised.

The aim of the proposals, if implemented, is to make the system easier to navigate and less time consuming for keepers.

“These changes will enable the government to trace disease more quickly and effectively and help safeguard national public health and food safety,” the UK government said.

“This will also strengthen the UK position in international markets.”

Bovine registration

Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon said: “By registering their cattle, farmers and keepers play an important role in protecting the national herd from insidious diseases such as bovine TB and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

“I urge all those with an interest to respond to this consultation to help ease unnecessary administrative burdens and take advantage of digitisation, to make registration of cattle much easier.”

The UK government said it has engaged closely with industry to understand the difficulties of the current system, which also covers bison and buffalo – and how they can be resolved.

As well as the introduction of bovine electronic identification (BeID), other new proposals include a “fairer and more proportionate regulatory framework” and greater flexibility such as for late registration of calves, so that farmers do not suffer financially by having them excluded from the food chain, the government said.

This consultation forms part of the wider Livestock Information Transformation Programme, which will replace the existing domestic traceability databases with one multi-species platform.

“Bovines will have a new database that will make tracing individual animals quicker and easier, which will help to reduce the harm caused by a disease outbreak,” the government said.