From 1 January 2025, cattle, sheep and goat identification tags will change from a “UK” prefix to “XI”.

According to DAERA the change is legally required under EU animal health law. These rules apply in NI as part of wider post-Brexit arrangements which give NI unfettered access to EU markets. Livestock identification in Britain remains unchanged, with the “UK” prefix still used.

To facilitate the possible introduction of bovine electronic identification (EID) in the future, the digit ‘9’ in front of the herd number on cattle tags will also change to ‘0’.

It means the six-digit herd number will then follow the new XI 0 prefix, followed by the four-digit individual animal number and single-digit check number.

Sheep tags will change from UK 1 to XI 1, followed by the six digit flock number and five digit individual animal number. Sheep EID tags will change from an 826 prefix to 899.

Finalising plans

In a statement, DAERA said it was “finalising plans” for the switch to an XI tag and will provide more information to livestock keepers “in due course”. The Department added that XI tags will be available later this year and when purchased, can be used immediately.

However, it is not totally certain the UK tags will be dropped from 1 January 2025, with this cut-off date described as “provisional” and dependent on progress “to get the necessary database changes in place”.


The advice to farmers from DAERA is “not to order tags now which they will not be able to use by January 2025”. However, a number of farmers have pointed out that advice should have been given before now, with spring-calving well underway. Farmers often carry a surplus of tags from one year to the next.

If the 1 January 2025 cut-off applies, these surplus tags will become obsolete. There is also a cost for BVD testing built into the price of new tags.

On enquiry a spokesperson for tag supplier, Countryside Services said it will let customers know when ‘XI’ tags are approved and available.

“If farmers have questions about this change or have tags remaining at the end of 2024 that were purchased this year, they should contact the customer service team in Countryside Services,” said the spokesperson.