Farming Terminology - or Old MacDonald Had a Farm

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FARMING TERMINOLOGY - or Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and on this farm there was a ........

Terminology for agricultural livestock is varied and often based on regional terms that have different meanings in different areas. The following list of terms contains both Veterinary and regional terms found in the United Kingdom.

Bovine: Ox or Cattle
Ovine: Sheep
Porcine: Pig
Caprine: Goat
Equine: Horse
Ratite: A running bird, e.g. Ostrich

Bovine Terminology:

Cattle are the most productive farm livestock kept in the United Kingdom; they produce not only milk but also meat of different types at various stages in their lives. Although there are distinct beef & dairy types, there is no clear line between them. Three quarters of our beef is produced from the dairy herd.

Dairy Type - The extreme dairy type of cow is long & thin, with a wedge shape body, carrying little flesh and with prominent bones. Main dairy breeds in the U.K are Friesian, Holstein, Ayrshire, Shorthorn, Guernsey and Jersey.

Beef Type - A real beef type animal is solid in its body, well covered with flesh, particularly in the hindquarters and back. Breeds include South Devon, Welsh Black, Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Sussex.

Beast – general descriptive term for an adult bovine.
Baby Beef – slaughter cattle weighing 700 – 1000lbs (approx. 315 – 450kgs) at 9 to 15 months of age grading good or better for quality.
Beefling - a fat young cattle beast weighing 500kg (approx. 1100lbs) at 1.5 to 2 years of age.
Bull - Entire male bovine animal of breeding age, usually over 1 year old.
Bullock - Mature castrated male cattle destined for meat production.
Bull beef – from entire animals instead of the fatter steer or bullock.
Calf - bovine animal less than a year old. (In some legislation 6 months old or even less).
“Bobby” calf” – calf slaughtered whilst only a few days old.
Bob veal calf – calf 1 to 3 weeks old, sold for baby veal, often the male calves from dairy farms, average weight 150lbs (68kgs).
Bull calf – entire male young animal up to stage of yearling.
Dairy Calf – calf of a mating between a bull & a cow both of dairy breeds.
Veal Calf - Specially reared, grown quickly and fed on special food aged up to 3 months.
Dairy Cow – cow of a breed specifically defined as being for milk production, as distinct from beef or dual purpose breeds.
Cow - mature female bovine after having had one calf. The term is also used to describe mature females of some other species, e.g. elk, moose, reindeer etc.
Cull Cow – Cow slaughtered out of herd for variety of reasons, e.g. age (over thirty months scheme), end of productive span, illness etc.
Dry Cow – a cow in the 2 to 3 month period between the end of lactation and the subsequent calving. Cows in which calving is imminent are close-up dry cows, or are freshening. Also refers to a mature cow that is not lactating whatever the reason.
Fat stock/Finished Stock - beef animals that are ready for slaughter.
Free-Marten - a female born with a male twin, usually infertile.
Heifer – young female bovine animal up to birth of first calf or in lactation following the first calving. May be qualified as replacement (to enter herd as a replacement for a culled cow), pregnant, maiden or spayed heifer. A springing heifer is in the last one or two weeks of pregnancy. After second calving known as a cow (also second calver).
Multiparous - female animal that has had two or more pregnancies resulting in viable offspring.
Maiden Heifer/Bulling Heifer - heifer before going the bull.
Maiden – a female, e.g. ewe, gilt, heifer, bitch, mare, of breeding age but not yet mated.
Primiparous - general term for any female animal that has had one pregnancy that resulted in viable offspring.
Stirk - regional term for a half grown animal, heifer or bullock, 6 to 12 months of age.
Steer - castrated male animal over 1 year of age.
Store Cattle - animals for beef which have been reared on one or more farms, and then are sold, either to dealers or other farmers. They are brought for finishing, normally well-grown animals of up to 2 years of age.
Yearling – an animal in its second year of age, e.g. yearling cattle, yearling filly, yearling colt.

Ovine Terminology

Sheep are hardy, well covered animals, usually kept in the open all year round. They are not so intensively farmed as either pigs, poultry or cattle. The most important and the most profitable produce of British sheep is their lambs. Wool is secondary.

Ewe - female sheep of breeding age, may be qualified as maiden ewes, not yet bred, or ewe lambs, up to 1 year.
Cull Ewe - finished ewes culled out for slaughter.
Gimmer - regional term for a young ewe that has not yet born a lamb.
Hogget – castrated male sheep usually 10 to 14 months old. Also used to describe an uncastrated male pig.
Lambs – young sheep still with its dam (mother) or up to 5 months of age. Qualified as ewe lamb or ram lamb.
Cade lamb - regional term for an orphan lamb.
Fat Lambs - finished ready for slaughter from approx. 4 months old onwards.
Store Lambs - lambs not sold during the summer for slaughter may be kept for sale or feeding on as store lambs.
Tegs - regional term for fat lamb in second season.
Mutton - the meat of older sheep, including cull ewes.
Ram - entire male animal that has reached sexual maturity at around 6 months.
Theaves - another regional term for a young ewe up to first lambing.
Tup - male sheep, usually an entire breeding male ram.
Shearling - regional term for sheep up to first shearing.
Wether - male sheep castrated at an early age before secondary sexual characters have developed

Porcine Terminology

Pigs are kept for meat production. For both pork and bacon the same type of long, lean pig is needed. For manufacturing a broader and heavier type may be suitable.
Pork - Fresh pigmeat
Bacon - pigmeat that is factory processed and cured after grading to very strict standards.
Manufacturing - pigs are processed in the factory to provide pork, bacon, hams, pies, sausages, tinned and other meat products. The modern quality type of pig, formerly called the bacon type, is suited to all purposes, is long, lean and fast growing. The main breeds are Large White, Landrace and Welsh.

Boar - entire male pig over 6 months of age destined as a sire.
Gilt - Young female pig, has not produced first litter (up to first farrowing).
Hog - castrated male pig.
Piglet - Young pig
Porker - breed of pig breed for good Pork meat cuts. Lightweight Porkers are about 60kg liveweight. Heavy Porkers or Cutters are around 80kg liveweight.
Stores - 10 -12 weeks old
Sow - female pig after she has had her first litter.
Weaner - 5 - 8 weeks old

Poultry Terminology

Poultry are kept for 5 main reasons:-
Egg Production
Meat Production
Dual Egg & Meat Production
Maternal Instincts (i.e broodies)
Showing & Pedigree breeding.

Heavy Breed - Any breed in which the female hen averages more than 2.48 kg at maturity.
Light Breed - opposite to heavy breed.

Bantam - Mini version of the larger breeds, being approximately one quarter the size.
Battery Hen - female bird housed in intensive egg production unit.
Broiler – Young (normally 8 weeks old) male or female birds weighing 3 to 3.5 lbs (1.36 kg – 1.59 kgs) especially bred in huge quantities for the meat market. Sold as male, female or as ‘hatched’ with a potentially good food conversion and quick finishing facility.
Broody - female bird who ceases to lay and shows willingness to sit on eggs and rear offspring.
Cob - Male bird kept for eating (see also equines).
Cockerel - A male bird older than 4 weeks up to sexual maturity at about 5 months.
Cock Bird - Male over 12 months of age, kept usually for breeding purposes.
Capon – Larger than a broiler, weighing up to 7 lbs (3.17 kg). Formerly a cockerel which has had its male characteristics changed by hormone implantation at about 5 months or surgical operation at about 8 weeks.
Chick - baby bird of either sex
Chicken - Strictly, male or female chicks up to their first birthday. Commonly used to refer to all ages.
Free range - Birds raised in conditions of complete freedom as to foraging, rest, bathing, feeding and nesting.
Fowl - Domestic Cock or Hen Bird kept for Eggs or Meat.
Hen - Female bird over one year old.
Molt – Changes of feathers once a year, usually in the Autumn, related to changes in hormones thought to be triggered by changes in light levels. Hens stop laying for 8 to 12 weeks at a time. Molting may occur at other times if there is feed stress.
Pullet - Young female bird of 12 months or less (up to first molt).
Point of Lay - Pullets which are approaching the time they will lay their first egg.
Warren hen/Spent hen - hens during & after first molt (no longer used commercially).


2 breeds, the American Bronzewing and the White Holland. Breed entirely for meat for human consumption.
Stag - male bird
Hen - Female bird.


Gander - Male bird.
Goose - Female bird.
Goslings - youngster.


Drake - Male bird.
Duck - Female bird.
Duckling - Youngster.

Caprine Terminology

Goats are kept for meat, milk, angora and kashmir fibre production. Common breeds of dairy goat are Anglo-Nubian, British Alpine, Saanen, Toggenburg. Common indigenous goats, e.g. Boer, are usually dual or even multipurpose.
Billy Goat - Male animal.
Nanny Goat - Female animal.
Kid - Youngster.

Equine Terminology

Cob – short-legged thickset horse usually 13.2 to 14.2 hands high but not more than 15.2.
Colt - Young male horse.
Filly - young mare up to first foal.
Foal - young horse.
Gelding - Castrated male horse.
Hand – unit of measurement for horses. 1 hand = 4 inches or 10.16 cm.
Mare - adult female horse.
Pony – an equine animal of about 14 hands high. Breed definitions vary from 14 to 14.2 hands high.
Stallion - entire adult male horse.


Ass – donkey.
Jack - male.
Jenny - female.
Jennets – female donkey, also known as a jenny.
Mules – Sterile offspring of a mating between a jack and a mare.


Red Deer
Calf - youngster
Hind - Female
Stag - Male

Fallow Deer/Roe Deer:
Buck - male
Doe - female


Buck - male rabbit
Doe - female
“in kimble” - pregnant female rabbit.

Other Agricultural Animals

Some exotic species are kept for commercial reasons, including Ostriches, Reas, Wild Boar etc.

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