National Sheep Identification System

The EU-wide system for the identification and registration of ovine (sheep) and caprine (goats) animals are set down under Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 of 17 December 2003 (as amended).  These rules are implemented in respect of sheep in Ireland under the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS).  

Under the NSIS, all flock owners must be registered, all sheep must be tagged and details of all sheep on farms and all sheep movements must be fully recorded.  This system, which encompasses producers, marts, meat factories and others, provides that Ireland has full traceability for all sheep, on an individual basis.

Sheep & Goat census

Under EU Regulation 21/2004 all sheep and goat keepers must count the number of animals present on the holding, record this number in the sheep flock register or goat herd register and are legally obliged to return this number to the Department once a year.

The Annual Sheep and Goat Census takes places normally in December and each registered keeper will receive in the post a Census Return which he/she should complete in respect of the number of sheep/goats on his/her holding and return it immediately in the prepaid envelope provided.

If you have no sheep or goats at all at the time of the census you must complete a nil return.  Failure to complete a census return will result in your designator being made dormant which will prevent you from ordering sheep or goat tags, dispatch/movement books or flock/herd registers.  It may also lead to penalties under cross compliance and could hamper claims made under certain schemes.


Further information, documents and forms can be found on the Department’s main website here or by contacting:

NSIS Unit,
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2.
Helpline LoCall: 1890 252 713
Tel: 01 607 2907