The first thing everyone starting out in smallholding does is try to find a suitable piece of land that will hopefully fulfil all their needs and dreams.

Some of the best people to do this are the auctioneers who operate the livestock markets in rural towns, who usually have a department, which deals with the sales of farms.

Many hopeful landowners will suffer periods of disenchantment whilst struggling to locate their little piece of the countryside but perseverance will pay off and a fantastic journey of enlightenment, laughter, tears but ultimately contentment will begin.

Organisations Before embarking on any enterprise with your new found land it is necessary to contact a number of organisations in order to register as an Agricultural holding, obtain Herd / Flock numbers etc. Many of these organisations have helpline numbers where you can obtain a multitude of information, much of this can be overpowering for the newcomer but taken in easy steps can easily be dealt with.

Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs - DEFRA DEFRA have overall responsibility for all matters dealing with farming. They provide numerous information booklets relating to animal welfare, condition scoring, housing etc.

The easiest way to gain information from DEFRA is to contact the helpline on 0845 9335577. There are a number of departments within DEFRA that you will come into contact with, the most important of these are listed below.

Rural Payments Agency - (RPA) Whether you choose to keep a single animal as a pet or operate a commercial enterprise you must register both your own and your land details to obtain an Agricultural Holding or CPH number.

The issue of a CPH number as it is known confers no rights onto its holder and is purely for administration purposes, making tracing of livestock owners easier in event of disease outbreak. Your holding number is your passport through a number of departments, by passing your CPH number they will have immediate access to your details, hopefully making things easier.

To obtain a holding number contact the RPA on the helpline 0845 6037777 and ask to be issued with an agricultural holding number. They will take a few details and within a couple of days you should be issued with your new holding number.

The holding number is referred to as a CPH number and is made up of numbers to represent the County and Parish the holding is located in, along with your own unique farm (holding) number.

For example: CPH 09 / 018 / 0085 09 = County of Derbyshire 18 = The Parish of Church Broughton 85 = The specific Holding (Farm) The RPA will also issue you with a registration document to gain further details of your business. On completion of this form you will be issued with a Single Business Identifier (SBI) number. This will be used whenever you contact the RPA or apply for the Single Farm Payment or other Grant Schemes such as the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme.

Rural Land Registry - (RLR) This is part of the RPA and is responsible for maintaining digital maps showing the location and land area of each holding. It is important that the maps of your holding are correct, as it is this information which will be used to calculate payments under the SFP and the grant schemes.

Any enquiries regarding land registration can be directed to the RPA helpline on 0845 6037777 who will direct questions to the RLR Maintenance unit.

Animal Health Office and the State Veterinary Service - (AHO) Once you have obtained your holding number, your next stop should be the Animal Health Office that is responsible for your county. These details can be obtained from the DEFRA Helpline on 0845 9335577. The AHO will issue you with your unique Herd / Flock numbers, specific to your holding, which are used to trace keepers of livestock and for individual animal identification. You will require different numbers for each type of livestock you wish to keep. You are also able to request separate numbers to identify different flocks.

Cattle Herd numbers and Sheep Flock numbers follow the pattern of a Country identifier followed by a unique 6 digit number, eg: UK 171688.

It is possible to be issued with the same number for cattle and sheep if you choose to keep both types of stock.

Pig herd numbers follow a slightly different pattern with a 2 letter County identifier followed by a unique 4-digit number. For example DE3624 - DE to denote Derbyshire.

The State Veterinary Service (SVS) are part of DEFRA and assist them in ensuring animal health regulations are complied with. This is achieved through inspections, education and information. They are also responsible for maintaining records of test dates and results for compulsory testing of notifiable diseases, such as TB and Brucellosis testing in cattle and scrapie testing in sheep. The SVS will notify you when the test is due and ask you to make arrangements with your own vet to do the testing. Failure to do so by the stated date will result in movement restrictions being imposed on your holding.

Your vet is responsible for forwarding the results of the test and will obtain his fee from the SVS.

The SVS are the primary agency in preventing the spread of notifiable diseases through prevention, detection and management of outbreaks and can be contacted through your local AHO.

Trading Standards - (TS) Trading Standards are responsible for the administration of Animal Movement Licenses, in conjunction with the SVS. They will issue you with a general license to allow transportation of your livestock, and blank movement licenses for completion on the day of travel. These should be used whenever livestock are moved between holdings, to market or to the abattoir.

Trading Standards are also responsible for inspections of holdings, checks on livestock vehicles and attending livestock markets to ensure adherence to animal welfare legislation. They can be contacted at your County Council office.

British Cattle Movement Service - (BCMS) If you intend to keep cattle it is also necessary to register with the BCMS, who are responsible for registering and monitoring the movements of all cattle throughout the country via the cattle passport scheme.

They issue and register passports for all newborn calves and must receive details of the birth, within a specific number of days after birth.

Miss this deadline and a passport will not be issued, effectively rendering the animal worthless, as it cannot be moved from the holding, sold or slaughtered.

Registration is an easy process.

Once you have a CPH number and a Herd number, contact the BCMS Helpline on 0845 050 1234.

BCMS will send you an abundant supply of bar-code labels to use on the passports and movement forms, numerous books explaining the system and cattle welfare regulations.

Cattle movements and births can be notified "On Line". The system is easy to use once you have tried it and a training package is included on a CD.

Once you have spent a morning contacting these organisations you should be set up with all the numbers necessary to move livestock onto your holding and experience the joys of smallholding. We cannot predict the amount of time it will take to access this information, as stories abound of days spent holding-on for some of these agencies to answer the 'phone!