Farmers who fail to register the birth of a calf will now be able to claim a full passport providing a DNA test confirms the genetic link between the calf and the dam.

From next Friday (6 April) the British Cattle Movement Service will accept DNA evidence allowing a full passport to be issued after the 27-day deadline has passed. 

Under the current rules, those animals not registered within the allotted time frame could not be issued a passport meaning they were exempt from the food chain and could only be kept for breeding purposes or had to be destroyed. 

NFU Scotland, which campaigned heavily to change the rule, reckons there are about 23,500 cattle on UK farms without full passports. It estimates the changes will be worth over £1m to the Scottish beef industry and over £10m to the UK. 

Cattle owners will be required to arrange for a veterinary surgeon to take a DNA sample of an animal and its mother – this is then sent to an approved laboratory for testing. 

If the genetic link between the calf and the dam is confirmed, the results can be sent by the farmer to the BCMS which can issue a full passport. 

The farmer will have to meet the cost of the vet’s time on the farm and the estimated £30-£50 for the DNA test. However, farmers should be aware that where a DNA result is negative and a link not proven, the farm will be subject to a herd inspection.

Cattle owners are advised to contact BCMS for further advice 08450 501 234.