Animal Care Resource Guide for 4-H and FFA Members

Knowing the Livestock Lingo

There are many terms associated with livestock production that may be unfamiliar to youth. This NebGuide lists and defines terms common between species and specific to certain species. This is No. 4 in a series of five resource guides.

Lindsay M. Chichester, Extension Educator
Karna Dam, Extension Educator
Dennis E. Bauer, Extension Educator

Sometimes there may be terms or language used in livestock and poultry production that you may not be familiar with. These terms can be specific to certain species or they may be similar across species. The list of terms also includes significant points in the animal’s life cycle and terms used in feed ration development.

General Terminology


A grouping of a species of animals (cattle, swine, goats)


A grouping of a species of animals (sheep, poultry)


Multiple offspring produced at one birth by a multiparous mammal


Having given birth more than one time


Having given birth once

Gestation length

The amount of time an animal is pregnant. These lengths will vary by breed and individual animal.


A group of animals that, as a result of breeding and selection, have certain distinguishable characteristics

Breeding animal

Livestock bred and raised to be included in a reproductive program

Market animal

Livestock bred and raised for food consumption


An offspring that is removed from the care of its dam


An animal that is no longer nursing


An animal that is 1 to 2 years in age


To slaughter an animal for human consumption


When one animal is riding another animal; may cause physical and health problems to the animal being ridden

Breeding and Reproduction


A male parent


A female parent

Artificial insemination (AI)

Introduction of semen into the vagina or uterus using technology rather than by sexual contact between animals


An organism in its early stages of development, especially before it has reached a distinctively recognizable form


Female reproductive organ that produces ova and, in vertebrates, estrogen and progesterone


To produce ova; discharge eggs from the ovary


Male reproductive organ that produces testosterone


The alteration of a male animal’s reproductive system that renders it infertile


Describes a male animal that is unaltered and therefore capable of reproducing; uncastrated


Duration of pregnancy; the period of development in the uterus from conception until birth


The period during which mammary glands secrete milk


When an animal’s reproductive system begins to function. This will vary by species, breed, age, and weight of animals.

Estrus (heat)

When a female is receptive to a male for mating

Estrous (heat) cycle

Physiological changes that occur in mammalian females which are controlled by hormones and used for the maturation of and release of follicles from the ovary

Signs of estrus (In-heat)

If an animal is in-heat, she may stand for other animals to ride her, may try to ride other animals, have loss of appetite, sniff and smell the air, may act nervous and restless, experience increase in mucous discharge from the vulva, and/or the vulva may be red and swollen.

Heat check

Watching for signs of estrus


Manipulating the estrus cycle of breeding females so they can be bred at approximately the same time


Heat detection device that is a capsule of red dye glued to the tailhead. When the animal is mounted, the capsule breaks, indicating that she may be in heat.

CIDR Devices
(pronounced “cedar”)

Devices containing the progesterone hormone, which is placed intravaginally to release progesterone at a controlled rate into the bloodstream. Animals will come into heat several days after the devices have been removed.

Early maturing

Female reaches mature size at a younger age

Later maturing

Female reaches mature size at an older age

Health and Well-Being


To inoculate with a vaccine in order to produce immunity to an infection or disease


A naturally hornless animal


An animal with horns


Removal of horns from animals when they are young, making them easier to handle and less likely to injure each other and human handlers


The removal of the majority of the tail, leaving a small portion closest to the body

Gummers/Broken mouth

These are usually animals that are advanced in age, but may also be animals that have eaten off of a dirt pen floor where they may chew rocks, thus breaking their teeth. These animals may need additional or more easily consumed feed products.

Withdrawal time

The amount of time necessary for an animal to metabolize an administered product and the amount of time necessary for the product concentration level in the tissues to decrease to a safe, acceptable level for possible human consumption


The remainder of a drug in the tissue of an animal before the withdrawal time has been met

Pull rate

The amount of animals individually pulled out of a larger group of animals in which individual care or treatment is provided

Feed and Nutrition


An animal that is consuming its ration of feed normally


When an animal’s consumption of feed decreases or stops. This may indicate the animal does not feel well or that there is something wrong with the feed.


A bolus of forage material that a ruminant animal regurgitates to be chewed again


Animals that have a stomach with four compartments that consume forages and regurgitate their cud to break it down so they can absorb the nutrients. Some ruminant animals include: cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, and deer, to name a few.


The process of a ruminant animal regurgitating its cud, and chewing it again to facilitate proper breakdown of cellulose rich plant material


Having a single stomach chamber; able to digest limited fibrous material. Examples of monogastrics include: humans, swine, horses, rabbits, cats, and dogs.

Ad Lib

Also known as free choice. Sufficient feed is made available at all times to enable the animal to eat as much as it can eat.

Amino acids

Building blocks of protein, contain nitrogen

Animal Protein Product (APP)

The protein ingredient made from meat, bone meal, carcasses, blood, feathers, and/or fish that is treated at very high temperatures

As fed basis

Weight of the feed or ingredient including moisture (water) content

Balanced ration

A balanced ration must contain the five essential elements — water, protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals — in the proper amount and ratios for the species being fed and for the maintenance of that animal (i.e., egg production, body maintenance, desired growth)

Complete feed

A ration that provides all the nutrients required. This can generally be purchased or made locally.

Daily feed intake

The amount of feed consumed in a day


Short or lacking certain nutrients


Term given to feedstuffs that can be broken down and absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Dry matter

The portion of feed remaining after removal of moisture

Dry feeds

Feeds that are approximately 90% dry matter; usually hay and pellets

Feeding rate

The amount in pounds or kilos that a specific feed must be fed per day or per animal


Term given to feedstuffs that cannot be broken down and absorbed in the GI tract

IU/International Units

A unit used to measure the effect of many vitamins and minerals

Limit Fed

Not allowing an animal to be fed to satisfy its appetite

Macro minerals/Major minerals

Minerals such as calcium and phosphorous that are included in a ration in relatively large amounts; usually measured in grams/day or percentage

Trace minerals/Minor minerals

Minerals such as copper and zinc that are included in a ration in very small amounts; usually measured in parts per million or 1/1000 of a gram fractions of a milligram per head per day


Items such as protein, fat, fiber, energy, minerals, trace minerals, and vitamins


The amount of feed given to an animal in a 24-hour period; determine ration based on weight, age, and nutritional needs of the animal


Coarse, dense plant-based material; hay

Wet feeds

Fresh grass or silage; ingredients with a high moisture content


What remains of a plant in a field after harvest


To remove all grains or crop from a field, leaving residue

Beef and Dairy Cattle


Scientific name for cattle

Beef animal

Cattle developed for the production of red meat

Dairy animal

Cattle developed for the production of milk

Dual Purpose

Cattle developed for the production of both meat and milk

Gestation length

9 months


Sexually mature male


Castrated male beef animal


Mature female


Young female that has not yet had a calf


Young offspring; sexually immature


Generic term for cattle; meat from cattle

Junior calf

An age classification used to separate calves into classes at fairs and exhibitions. This is a younger calf.

Senior calf

An age classification used to separate calves into classes at fairs and exhibitions. This is an older calf.

Bos indicus

Cattle developed to tolerate hot, humid climates; they generally have a hump on their necks, large ears, and thick skin. These cattle are well equipped to handle dry weather, heat, humidity, and insects. Breeds may include: Brahman and Santa Gertrudis.

Bos taurus

British and Continental breeds of cattle developed for the production of meat and/or milk. These cattle generally do not have humps on their necks, have short ears, and are thicker skinned. These cattle are better equipped to handle cold and wet climates. Breeds typically include: Angus, Hereford, Charolais, and many others.

British breeds

Breeds that were developed in the British Isles and brought to the U.S. in the late 1700s and early 1800s. When compared to the Continental breeds, these breeds are smaller in mature size, reach mature size at an earlier age, have less growth potential, excel in fertility and calving ease, attain higher quality grades, and yield carcasses with a lower percentage of salable product. These breeds include: Angus (red and black), Hereford (horned and polled), and Shorthorn.

Continental breeds

These breeds are newer to the U.S., being imported in the late 1960s and early 1970s, primarily to improve growth rate and leanness of existing breeds. These breeds are generally larger in mature size, are later maturing, and produce carcasses with less fat, a higher percentage of saleable product, and lower quality grades. Commonly referred to as “exotic” breeds and includes: Charolais, Chianina, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Maine Anjou, Salers, and Simmental.


A system that grows calves to enter a feedlot



Scientific name for swine


Sexually mature male


Castrated male


Mature female


Young female


Multiple offspring produced during one birth

Gestation length

3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days


Young offspring; sexually immature, (aka pig)


A mature swine


Meat from swine



Scientific name for sheep

Ram, Buck

Sexually mature male


Castrated male


Female sheep

Gestation length

5 months


Meat of a mature sheep


A sheep less than one year of age; meat from young sheep

Meat and Dairy Goats


Scientific name for animals in the goat family

Buck, Billy

Sexually mature male


Castrated male

Doe, Nanny

Female goat


Young female goat; sexually immature


Young male goat; sexually immature


Young offspring; sexually immature

Gestation length

5 months



Scientific name for rabbits


Male rabbit


Female rabbit

Kit, Kitten

Young rabbit

Gestation length

1 month

Poultry (chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys)


Scientific name for birds


Natural setting on eggs by the hen

Cock, Rooster

Adult male chicken


Young male chicken; less than one year old


Castrated rooster


Adult female chicken or turkey


Newly hatched or very young chicken


Young domestic hen, usually less than six months old


A chicken that is 6 to 13 weeks of age used for meat production


Adult male goose


Mature female goose


Young goose


Adult male duck


Mature female duck


Young offspring of ducks


Adult male turkey


Young turkey


Heating/brooding of eggs done by a hen or mechanical incubator for reproduction and hatching of poultry


The scientific study of embryos and their development

Incubation period – Chicken

21 days

Incubation period – Duck

28 days (Pekin and Mallard); 35 days (Muscovy)

Incubation period – Goose

28 days

Incubation period – Turkey

28 days


Stallion, Stud

Sexually mature male


Castrated male


Mother of a foal


Mature female


Horse of either sex less than one year old


Young female offspring (usually under 4 years of age)


Young male offspring (usually under 4 years of age)

Gestation length

11 months, 11 days


For more information on animal care and well-being, visit http://4h.unl.edu/resourceanimalcare or contact:

Donald Beermann
UNL Institutional Animal Care Program
110 Mussehl Hall
Lincoln, NE 68583-0720
Email: dbeermann2@unl.edu
Lindsay Chichester
UNL Extension Educator
1700 Stone St.
Falls City, NE 68355
Email: lchichester2@unl.edu
Dennis Bauer
UNL Extension Educator
148 West Fourth St.
Ainsworth, NE 69210
Email: dbauer1@unl.edu


The authors thank Dr. Candace Croney, Associate Professor, Animal Behavior and Well-Being, Purdue University, for her assistance with the content and editing of this publication.


This publication has been peer reviewed.

Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Publications website for more publications.
Index: Animals, General
2012, Revised September 2013

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