How to… get your cow a passport

The new year brings new beginnings, and our first Longhorn calves of 2014 have been born! In line with the Longhorn Cattle Society’s naming system, all of our registered 2014 calves must have names beginning with ‘O’ (last year was ‘N’ and next year will be ‘P’…you get the gist), and so we are appealing for your help: if you have a suggestion, then we want to hear it. Tweet your ‘O’ names to us @GingerPigLtd using #NameACalf or post them onto our Facebook page and you could be successful in naming one of our beautiful new calves (we’re going to need a lot of names!).

New calf - Jan 2014

Now back to business and how to get your cow a passport (the question on everyone’s mind). After we’ve admired our new calves and checked they are healthy and have had their first suckle, it’s time to get down to the paper work which comes with each birth. In a nutshell, each bovine beast must be tagged and their owner must apply for a passport for them, which sounds simple enough doesn’t it…

Not so! First up is tagging: essentially this is like piercing their ears with two yellow plastic tags – one is usually a button-like tag and the second one is bigger, or just two big ones. The tag is their official identifier, (although our stockman Jim knows each by name!), it has their herd number and individual number on it. Getting near a newly born calf in order to tag them can be tricky – it’s not the calf you’ve got to worry about but the protective mother…

Once the calf has been given his/her fetching pair of ‘earings’, we need to fill out an application form for their passport and send it off to the BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) post haste. All cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a cattle passport, and to conform to European legislation the application must be done within 27 days of them being tagged (which in turn must be 3 days from birth). Applications which are not received in time could lead to restrictions on movements of cattle and refusal of the passport application, so it’s extremely important that we get everything sent off in time. The passport holds information of the animal’s tag number, breed, sex, date of birth, genetic mother’s tag number, genetic father’s tag number (optional), and their movement history. Sadly it does not look like a human’s passports with a little picture of them in the back, however turning up to Gatwick for your 5am flight with Maisy Moo Cow’s passport would not be ideal so perhaps their dissimilarity is just as well.

Even with the tagging done and passport applied for the process is still not over. We register our pedigree Longhorns with the official breed society, the Longhorn Cattle Society – so long as they conform to the strict breed pedigree specifications. This is the best part of the process because we, (and for the first time this year, you), get to name them! Don’t forget to send us your suggestions #NameACalf.

So now you know all about how to get your calf a passport…