Now, with these newly acquired goats, everything is working out fine, they're healthy and happy and seem to like the chickens... all good so far. But, they came without tags or papers, and the woman in question isn't sure how to get a herd number, or whether she has to.
So, the short answer is YES. If you want to keep cattle, sheep, goats or pigs and use the meat, sell the milk or sell off surplus young, you MUST have a herd number. You also need a flock number for poultry, if you have more than 50 birds. This is a good thing, because it's all about traceability, helping to prevent disease in animals and, sometimes, humans. It also allows the local vetrinary department to keep track of animals, and make certain that they are being kept in suitable conditions. It is illegal to buy or sell livestock without a herd number, you cannot sell meat or milk from an untagged animal, and no butcher will touch an untagged animal- they would lose their license if they did.
Goats are a tricky one, as it is only fairly recently (within the last 3 years) that they have had to be tagged, so people are used to being able to trade them as pets. There is also still a scattered population of wild goats. So while things are very clear-cut with cattle and sheep, goats are a bit of a grey area.
I came upon this myself last year, as I moved house (having worked on a farm) and brought my goats with me. I duly applied for a herd number, but when the inspector showed up he was very sorry, but he couldn't give me one as I didn't have enough land. You need more than an acre to qualify. There was, however, no mention of me getting rid of the goats... the inspector just went away and left me to it. They were now, essentially, pets.
That was all fine, until September came. I had parted with one nanny at that stage, but couldn't be without dear old Roux, who is one of my best friends. But in September, she started coming on heat and INSISTED that we do something about it! Now, I have a dilemma. Roux has gone on an extended 'dirty weekend' with the local Billy, but how can I take her back with kids on the way? I can't sell the milk, or the kids, or use the kids for meat. So for now, the honeymoon continues until I can find a solution!
So what ARE the criteria for getting a herd number. Well first, you'll need a 'recognised holding', and that will need to be more than an acre. You'll also need to show that you have separate housing and facilities from neighbouring herds. You can download the full list of requirements below. You will need to provide deeds to a holding that you own, or a leasing agreement if you're renting.
If you fulfill the criteria, you need to fill in a form ER1, which you can find HERE The form is very simple, and you just send it in to your local District Veterinary Officer... you'll find a list of them on the same link. You'll then get a visit from the inspector, which is very simple too, and after that they'll send you your number and books of movement papers with instructions. You will need to fill in these papers if you move an animal off your holding, either to another farm or to the butcher... it's just a couple of lines.
And that's it. It's free of charge too. All added up, it's only about an hours work and you'll be free to relax and enjoy the company of your wonderful animals :)