Cattle Terminology

If you did not grow up around the beef industry but you are interested in learning about beef you will quickly learn there is a lot of terminology you have to understand to be able to follow along with what cattle people are talking about. I have attempted to compile and explain in layman’s terms some of the more common terms used in the beef industry

Bull is an intact adult male meaning it is still capable or producing off-spring

Bull that has been castrated is a steer

The female counterpart to a bull is a cow

An adult female that has had a calf  is a cow.

Sire – a male parent

Dam – a female parent

A young female before she has had a calf of her own is called a heifer

Young cattle of both sexes are called calves until they are weaned

Weaned – an offspring that is removed from the care of it’s dam (mother)

Most beef animals are castrated as calves to reduce aggressive behavior and prevent unwanted mating

The vast majority of male cattle are castrated and slaughtered for meat before the age of three years

Cattle raised for human consumption are called beef cattle

Cattle bred specifically for milk production are called milking or dairy cattle

Purebred – A beef animal whose parents are of the same breed and are recorded with the registry association

Registered – An animal whose name, along with the name and number of its sire (father) and dam (mother), has been recorded in  the  record  books  of  its  breed  association.  The  association gives the animal a number, known as a registration number. The association gives the animal a certificate known as a registration certificate showing that the animal has been registered

Breed – a stock of animals within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection

Herd – a group of a single species of animal

Artificial insemination (A.I.) – The technique of placing semen from the male in the reproductive tract of the female by means other than natural service.

Photo Credit: Jonas Koel

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