From week commencing 24 June 2024, farmers in NI will be able to purchase new ‘XI’ prefix livestock tags from tag suppliers.

The new arrangements impact cattle, sheep and goats, and are a legislative requirement under EU Animal Health Law. This law applies in NI under post-Brexit arrangements and facilitates the continued movement of animals from NI into the EU.

DAERA has confirmed it will not be possible to purchase new ‘UK’ prefix tags from 24 June, although farmers with existing stocks of ‘UK’ tags can still use these on their animals up to a cut-off date, provisionally expected to be from 27 January 2025.

In the case of cattle tags, to facilitate the possible introduction of bovine electronic identification (EID) in the future, the digit 0 will replace the digit nine in front of the herd number, so ‘UK 9’ will become ‘XI 0’.

However, where a cattle farmer needs a replacement tag, this tag will be exactly the same as at present, even after the switchover to XI tags.


Where new-born animals are likely to be exported to continental Europe in the future, the advice from DAERA is that farmers should switch to using XI tags from 24 June onwards. The Department also recommends that any ‘UK’ tagged livestock born after 20 April 2023, which are going for export to continental Europe, should be re-tagged with XI tags. This process should be done under the supervision of an official veterinarian.


Existing stocks of new ‘UK’ tags can be used in animals born before the provisional switchover date of 27 January 2025. Beyond that date any remaining unused tags will become obsolete.

For anyone with unused ‘UK 9’ tags at the end of 2024, they should contact their tag supplier to discuss options, as the cost of BVD sampling is already built into the price paid for these tags.

However, a DAERA spokesperson confirmed that cattle farmers will not be able to simply get unused ‘UK 9’ tags re-printed with the ‘XI 0’ code.

“It is currently expected that all ‘UK 9’ prefix tags which have not been used to register a birth by January 2025 will have their status on NIFAIS updated from ‘UNUSED’ to ‘WITHDRAWN’ and keepers will no longer be able to register births against those numbers”.

“All new XI tags issued by tag suppliers will carry on in sequence from the last tag number issued, even if the keeper takes unused tags back to the tag supplier,” said the spokesperson.

Genetics programme

Cattle farmers should note that as well as a potential switch to EID tagging in future, there are also plans in NI to DNA sample all breeding animals and new-born calves from 1 January 2026 as part of the roll-out of a new livestock genetics programme.

That process is likely to require a second ear notch sample (the first tissue sample is for BVD testing). As a result, when buying new XI tags, cattle farmers should consider only purchasing what they need to the end of 2025.