How To: Understand Beef Cattle Names

Many people think that a cow is a cow, but did you know that the term ‘cow’ actually describes a very specific life stage of a female bovine..? There are several different names that are used every day in beef cattle farming and below are some of the most common.

There are of course worldwide and regional differences but the terms below are generally used by the majority of the UK…

* Gender Specific Terminology *

Male Cattle (in tact)

  • Bull Calf (less than 7 months)
  • Bull

Male Cattle (castrated)

  • Steer calf (less than 7 months)
  • Steer

Female Cattle

  • Heifer Calf (less than 7 months)
  • Heifer (hasn’t give birth and is usually less than 30 months)
  • Cow (has given birth and is 2 years or older)

* Pregnancy Terminology *

Open Cow/Heifer – Not pregnant female

Bred Cow/Heifer – Pregnant female

1st Calf Heifer – Female pregnant with or raising her first calf

Pasture Exposed Heifers/Cows – Females that have lived with a bull and are expected to be pregnant but it is yet to be confirmed.


* Fate Terminology *

Breeding Stock – Cattle who’s main purpose is to breed.

Fat Cattle/Fats – Cattle of either sex that have reached slaughter age and weight.

Cull – Cattle that are no longer productive i.e. are infertile or have experienced complications in mating/pregnancy/birth.

I hope this small glossary has given some of you a little more confidence in the names and terminology used in the beef cattle world. I start my new job in this industry tomorrow so I am just doing some last minute swotting up and thought I would share my revision!

Speak soon!

Katie x

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