Beef Cattle Talk: A GlossaryNo matter what type of cattle they raise and in what way, cattle producers speak a slightly different language than everyday American English. To the newbie, this peculiar vocabulary can be baffling.

Allow us to elucidate a few of the most common terms:

 

  • 3 in 1: A pregnant cow with a calf at her side.
  • AI: Short for artificial insemination.
  • All natural: Raised without antibiotics, steroids, or growth hormones.
  • Backgrounding: The process of growing a weaned calf to prepare it for finishing. The increase in size that results from backgrounding is primarily due to the development of bone and muscle, not fattening.
  • Base weight: The estimated net weight of a group of cattle on delivery day. Used to calculate final sales price.
  • Body condition score: A measure of the amount of flesh and fat an animal is carrying. Find out how it works here.
  • Broken mouth: A mouth that is starting to lose teeth.
  • Closed herd: A herd into which no outside breeding stock is ever introduced. A closed herd produces all of its own herd sires and replacement heifers.
  • Club calf: A calf bred for showing at 4-H or FFA shows. Eye appeal is a major factor in what makes a good club calf.
  • Composite: A breed formed by combining several other breeds at specific percentages. A more complete explanation can be found here.
  • Concentrate: Highly digestible feed high in energy but low in fiber.
  • Conformation: How well the physical appearance of an animal conforms to a standard, whether that is a formal written show standard or just the commonly accepted views of how cattle should be built for soundness and productivity. By extension, conformation has also come to refer simply to the physical appearance of the animal without any reference to a standard.
  • Corriente: Properly a specific breed descended from Spanish cattle. Sometimes also used to refer to nondescript roping cattle, particularly those of Mexican origin.
  • Cutability: How much lean, salable meat a carcass can produce relative to the amount of waste fat.
  • Dewlap: Loose folds of skin hanging from the bottom of the neck, indicative of zebu influence.
  • Double-muscling: Having a genetic mutation leading to uncontrolled muscle growth, evidenced by an odd, heavy-muscled appearance. Characteristic of the Belgian Blue breed.
  • Dry: Not lactating.
  • Dystocia: Calving difficulties.
  • Easy fleshing: Able to maintain or gain weight readily on only low-cost feed, particularly forage.
  • EPD: Expected progeny difference. How the offspring of a given sire will perform for a given trait compared to others of the same breed. A more complete explanation can be found here.
  • ET: Embryo transfer, not extraterrestrial. The process of removing embryos from a donor cow and implanting them into recipient cows. A technique used to maximize the genetic potential of a cow by enabling her to have more offspring than is naturally possible.
  • Exotic: Typically a Continental breed (see more here). Sometimes also applied to unusual bovines such as miniature cattle, bison, beefalo, or yaks.
  • Exposed: The cow in question was pastured with a bull. She might be pregnant, but there is no guarantee.
  • F1: Stands for “first filial generation.” The first generation of a cross.
  • Fancy: Exceptionally good eye appeal, conformation, and femininity. Also exceptionally expensive.
  • Feed conversion: Units of feed consumed relative to units of weight gained. Also referred to as “feed efficiency.”
  • Feeder calf: A calf that has been weaned but is not yet being finished. A rather loose term, but generally refers to older, larger calves that have already gone through the stocker phase and are now ready to go a feedlot.
  • Finishing: The final stage of feeding an animal destined for slaughter. Many cattle are finished on grain at a feedlot. Grass-finished cattle are finished on forage.
  • FOB: Free on board, or freight on board. The geographical place at which ownership of a group of cattle changes hands. Significant because the new owner is responsible for shipping costs after this point.
  • Frame score: An evaluation of the skeletal size of an animal based on hip height. Frame scores are related to both carcass weight and maintenance requirements. Read more here.
  • Freemartin: A heifer that was born twin to a bull calf. Most freemartins are infertile.
  • Gate cut: A method of equitably sorting cattle if a buyer is not taking the entire group. The cattle are placed in a corral and every third (or fourth or fifth or etc.) animal to come out of the alley goes to the buyer.
  • Genotype: The genetic makeup of an animal.
  • Green broke: Has had some halter training, but is not yet thoroughly trained.
  • Hanging weight: The weight of a beef carcass after the nonedible parts, such as head and organs, are removed.
  • Hard doer: Always in poor health and condition, regardless of management.
  • Harvest: Slaughter.
  • Heterosis: Hybrid vigor. The degree to which crossbred calves excel their purebred parents in performance traits.
  • Marbling: Intramuscular fat. Used to determine the USDA quality grade of a carcass.
  • Mastitis: Infection of the mammary glands.
  • Maternal traits: Traits that make a cow a good mother. Precisely which traits are considered maternal varies per producer, but the idea is that a cow with maternal ability is one that can consistently raise a hefty calf each year.
  • Maverick: An unbranded animal.
  • MiG: Management-intensive grazing. A system of matching animal nutritional needs to changing forage resources. Rotational grazing is a tool used in MiG, but MiG is far more than just rotational grazing. Read more here.
  • OCV: Official calfhood vaccinate. An animal that received a brucellosis vaccination as a calf, generally necessary to ship cattle across state lines.
  • Open: Not pregnant.
  • Pedigree: The family tree of an animal.
  • Phenotype: The visible animal and its performance traits, as distinct from its genetic background. A phenotype is influenced by genetics, but there can be environmental effects affecting the final product, and there might be genes with masked effects. Thus the difference between phenotype and genotype.
  • Polled: Hornless.
  • Post-legged: Having unusually straight back legs. A conformation defect that causes abnormal movement.
  • Prepotency: The ability of a bull to “stamp” his offspring so that they resemble him to a particularly marked degree. Usually seen in inbred bulls with many dominant genes paired together.
  • Progeny test: A method of estimating the genetic merit of a sire by evaluating the performance of his progeny.
  • Proven: Has had offspring. Hopefully good ones, but that depends on the honesty of the person saying it.
  • Reference sire: A bull with a known track record used as a benchmark in progeny testing.
  • Replacement heifer: A heifer that has been chosen to become a producing cow in the herd.
  • Running iron: A branding iron used to draw rather than stamp a brand. Illegal in some areas due to its longtime association with cattle rustlers.
  • Saddle iron: A short branding iron made be carried on the saddle. It does not have a handle, but instead is made to use any stick found along the trail.
  • Scurs: Bony hornlike growths attached to the skin of the head. Read more here.
  • Seedstock: Breeding animals sold as a genetic package as distinct from commercial animals sold for production purposes.
  • Shrink: The amount of weight an animal loses under stress.
  • Sickle-hocked: Having back legs bent at too sharp of an angle.
  • Sire summary: A record of the EPDs for current sires published by a national cattle evaluation program.
  • Slide: A method of adjusting the final sale price based on variation of the actual net weight of the cattle from their base weight.
  • Smooth mouth: A mouth without teeth.
  • Soggy: Deep-bodied, big-bellied, and in average to heavy condition. A sign of an easy-fleshing animal.
  • Springer: A cow or heifer expected to calve soon.
  • Stockers: Weaned cattle in a forage-based backgrounding program.
  • Synchronize: Treat cows or heifers with hormones to synchronize their estrous cycles. This is a convenience when using artificial insemination.
  • Terminal sire: A bull used to raise calves strictly for market, not breeding purposes.
  • Texas gate: A cattle guard.
  • Trim: Having a clean silhouette with no dewlap or other loose, hanging skin and flesh that might indicate zebu influence.
  • Upgrade: Increase the numbers of or introduce desired genes into a pure breed by introducing outside blood and breeding the crossbred offspring back to the desired parent breed. After several generations, the offspring become nearly pure. Read more here.
  • Yield grade: A 5-point scoring system used to measure cutability, with grade 1 being the highest yield of lean meat and grade 5 being the lowest.

Posted by hsotr