I was emailed the enquiry below and thought that the answer may be of general interest, as well of course as the keeping sheep page on our web site.
I've been seriously considering having a couple of sheep as domestic pets ( to go with our three hens) for a while now, but I've recently been told that DEFRA need to come and inspect your property before you can be allowed to keep livestock. Is this true?
I’m interested to hear that you are thinking of keeping sheep, we would certainly recommend it and have been delighted with our wonderful experiences with the lambs and now as fully grown sheep.
Regarding rules and regulations from DEFRA and livestock, these relate more to transportation of animals, which as a pet sheep keeper are not too difficult to comply with as usually your pet animals will not be moving much if at all once delivered home and the supplier of the sheep should have the transportation forms for when you pick them up.
To keep sheep you do not need a visit from DEFRA, you just need to get a CPH holding number which you do by filling in a form and sending it in to your local branch of DEFRA. This can take a week or two. So I would recommend ringing your local office to get ahead with it if you plan to get the sheep soon. DEFRA may visit, but it is not compulsory and we have had a DEFRA inspector just turn up unannounced one morning so I think they may do “flash visits” randomly as some kind of check. The animals do need to be tagged and given a flock number (yes even for 2 sheep), this was already done for our lambs when we got them, if your supplier hasn’t already done this DEFRA will provide you with the appropriate number. If they already have one there is no need to change it. Good luck, I hope you do get some sheep.
p.s. Diane may add to or modify some of this as the admin side is largely her department, I major in wrestling animals, when they need vaccinating or a pedicure, and usually lose!
Regards, John --------------------------------- Administrator Animal Lovers Web.com ---------------------------------
Please note - this advice applies to the UK only. Each country will have their own legislation.
To legally have sheep on your land you need, as John mentioned, to have a County Parish Holding Number (CPH) for the land on which the sheep will be kept. To obtain this number, contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on 0845 6037777.
After the sheep have moved onto your land, you will need to contact your local Animal Health Divisional Office who will register your sheep and provide you with a Flock Mark which is a unique identification number for your sheep/property.
All this information is available on the DEFRA site, together with information about double tagging of your sheep, a new practice that has become law in January this year. These rules apply whether you have one sheep or one thousand.
You'd be unlucky to get an inspection from DEFRA but better safe than sorry. Animal Health are allowed to make planned visits but also unplanned spot checks too. Keeping good records of all movements of livestock, a flock register, any medications given and correctly tagging are essential. DEFRA have produced a useful guide that you may find helpful which is a Code of Recommendation for the Welfare of Livestock.
I know it seems like there is endless regulation and red tape and LOADS to read. I'm just glad we only have a few farm animal pets - heaven knows how commercial livestock farmers manage with all the paperwork
Can you imagine what it would be like if we had to follow so many rules for small pets. I suppose it is good that they keep an eye on things, but no-one like paper work.
I think it all went a bit crazy after the BSE and Foot and Mouth scares, to ensure traceability, safety for the consumer and promote better husbandry. But, for a newbie to farm animals, it is a bit daunting at first. I've got my head around it all now, at last
I was thinking about that while I was typing, but I hesitated to mention it. We really felt for you here. We have issues with mad cow disease. There are some isolated cases, but herd records are not good enough to trace its origions. If record keeping were "perfect" then these diseases would be traceable and we all would be safer. It only takes one person to make a mistake and many can suffer the consequences of it. I can understand why England has been so strict about quarantine. One case of rabies loose in the countryside could have a devastating effect. I worry about my own animals. I am careful about my food sources. I don't feed wild caught mice to Joe or wild caught insects to the lizards. Because I purchase there is some record of where it can from, just in case. Traceability is so important.