Understanding cattle terminology

 Thu, 9th Dec, 2021

Commonly used cattle terms and terminology explained in this simple guide

We appreciate that farming skills, and indeed farms, are often passed through many generations. However, there are some who come to farming later in life. They may be a little unsure of which breed would best suit their needs and perhaps aren't overly familiar with the various cattle terminology that is used in the farming community.

Cattle terms glossary

In this blog, we'll explain some of the more common cattle terms. If there are novice farmers out there in need of livestock and advice, please get in touch. Please be aware that depending where you farm in the world, terms can vary.

Let's kick things off with the ladies and some information on cows.

What is a cow?

A cow is an adult female animal that has had one or more calves. A suckler cow is the mother of a calf raised for beef production while the term dam is simply used to describe the mother of a calf.

What is a heifer?

A heifer is a young female animal before she has had a calf or in lactation following the first calving. Occasionally the term, first-calf heifer is used to describe a young female that has had only one calf. A heiferette is a heifer that has calved once and can't calve again while an open heifer Bulling or Maiden heifer is sometimes used to refer to an animal that isn't pregnant.

Calf is used to describe cattle (male or female) that are less than a year old. Between 1 and 2 years of age the animal will be known as a yearling. In some parts of the world this is further broken down into short yearling - when the animal is over a year but under 18 months and long yearling - when the animal is between 19 months and 2 years of age.

You may also come across the term springer. This can be used to describe a cow or heifer that is close to calving.

When a female is born as the twin of a bull, she will usually be infertile. In these cases, the animal will often be referred to as a freemartin.

Other commonly used cattle terms

Store cattle

These are growing animals that are usually up to 2 years old that are bought and then finished. Depending on where you are in the world, you may come across the term feeder cattle. This also refers to animals that require more growth/fattening before slaughter. When they are ready for slaughter, they are finished cattle.

Crossbreed is an animal that is a product of crossing two or more breeds. This is done to get the best facets of several breeds into one animal.

Let's finish with the gents and some male cattle terms.

What is a bull?

A bull is a sexually mature male that hasn't been castrated. A bullock is a young male calf - typically under 20 months of age.  

What is a steer?

A steer (or bullock) is a castrated male animal. 

If you need advice on cattle breeds or help sourcing top quality livestock, please get in touch. View our current livestock for sale. David Clarke Livestock source and supply breeds from across Ireland and Europe. 

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