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HomeBeefHow to obtain a herd number: A step by step guide
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How to obtain a herd number: A step by step guide

In this article, we explain how you can apply to the DAFM for a herd number. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine introduced herd numbers in 1939 to identify cattle herds.

Your herd number is a unique number assigned to you and is a legal requirement for keeping livestock.

Your local Regional Veterinary Office (RVO) is responsible for assigning your herd number.

A herd number application is an important task for many potential farmers at this time of the year, ahead of the May 17th application deadline for the Basic Farm Payment Scheme (BPS).

A herd number application is generally uncomplicated. However, do not leave your application until May if you intend to apply for the Basic Payment Scheme.

How to get a herd number in Ireland

Anyone who wishes to become the keeper and owner of a herd or flock under Disease Eradication schemes must complete an ER1 and an ER1.1 form. You can find these forms on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s website.

An ER1.1 form is to register a herd number and become a herd number owner for Disease Eradication schemes. Comparatively, an ER1 form is to register as a herd keeper.

The applicant must include details such as their:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • PPS number;
  • Details of the enterprise in which they intend to farm.

You must clearly indicate on the ER1 form if you wish to apply for a new herd number, reactive an existing herd number that has become dormant, or change the registration of an existing herd number.

For example, if a farm is being inherited or transferred from a parent to a son/daughter, they must transfer the herd number into the transferee’s name. This also includes the transfer of entitlements.

Both must sign a declaration of undertaking when adding a second name to a herd number, to ensure compliance by both participants with the requirements of various Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine schemes.

What is the purpose of a herd number?

Herd numbers are in place as an administrative device, their core purpose is disease control.

A herd owner is the owner of the animals contained within a herd. In comparison, a herd keeper is an assigned individual responsible for the welfare of the animals within the herd. For example, a farm manager.

A herd number is essential for both the management and control of diseases on farms across the nation. This includes diseases such as TB in cattle.

There are criteria set by the Department of Agriculture to attain your herd number.

This criterion involves the assurance that disease is both controlled and prevented from spreading on cattle. This involves maintaining stock on your holding without intermixing or being on the same holding as other herds/flocks.

Who can apply for a herd number?

Anyone over eighteen can apply for a herd number to keep either cattle or sheep.

In many instances, young qualified farmers take the opportunity to join the existing family herd number to avail of financial benefits.

However, to attain a herd number, a Green Certificate is not required. While it is beneficial, there is a timeframe set on the period of time you can retrieve these financial benefits.

On obtaining your herd number as a Young Farmer, from the date the herd number is registered, you have a period of five years to apply for schemes such as the National Reserve, as well as the Young Farmers Scheme.

The Young Farmers Scheme runs for a period of five years from the date the Green Certificate is attained. Therefore, the sooner you apply for this scheme upon registration of your herd number, the longer you will receive payments under the Young Farmers Scheme, which is a maximum of five years.

These bonuses include a top-up of entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme under the National Reserve and entry to the Young Farmers top-up scheme for five years.

Partnerships and joint herd numbers are also required to complete the standard process of filling in the ER1.1 form.

When you have completed this form, the DAFM will pay grant aid and Basic Payment Scheme subsidies to the person(s) nominated on this ER1.1 form.

The requirements for attaining a herd number

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Regional Veterinary Office makes an inspection before issuing a flock or herd number.

According to DAFM, to minimise disease and maximise animal health, herds and flocks in the application must meet the following criteria:

  • Herd exclusively occupies a defined holding;
  • Entry points onto other adjoining lands, not part of the application, are permanently blocked;
  • There are separate entrances to the holding;
  • Perimeter fencing should be stock-proof at a minimum and also prevent direct contact between stock on adjoining holdings;
  • Adequate facilities for inspection, loading, unloading, marshalling, watering, feeding, isolation, treatment of sick or injured animals and housing as appropriate;
  • Adequate facilities for animal bedding and the collection or storage of manure and wastewater.

There are independent and separate facilities such as:

  • Cattle crush or handling facilities;
  • Feeding and watering facilities;
  • Farm machinery;
Planning for your herd

According to the DAFM, the current wait time for a herd number approval status is 3-4 weeks, depending on your location.

This gives you adequate time to make a plan based on a successful herd number application.

You should consider the following:

  • How you are will source animals;
  • The type of animals you intend to have on your holding;
  • The number of animals required;
  • If you intend to breed animals;
  • Consider sourcing from herds or flocks which are known to have a good health status.

You should also consider the area you have available in comparison to the headage of animals you intend to farm.

In terms of Basic Payment Scheme applications, you will need to host your minimum stocking rate for seven consecutive months to claim ANC payment.

Herd number applicants, who do not move stock in on time, once they obtain their herd number, may fail to qualify for the ANC payment.

Should you require any assistance, contact your local agricultural advisor for professional help.

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