Animal Agriculture Terminology 101: What it all means


Are you somewhat new to agriculture or just want to learn more about ag terminology? Below is a little bit of an “Ag 101” lesson in basic farm animal terms that you would hear when talking with any farmer or rancher!

And that’s the first word to understand in the very basics — the average person might not know what the word “ag” means, which is short for agriculture. There are so many other terms that people might not know when they don’t have a background in farming, but these are great for those who want to know more about where their food comes from or learn more about the differences in animal terms!

In my opinion, the very first word that comes to mind is the word “cow.” Did you know that the word “cow” is technically a female bovine who has had a calf? Often times people refer to “cattle” as “cows,” but when referencing to a group of bovines — especially in the beef industry — the proper term to use is cattle, since they can be either male or female. If you’re looking at a group of bovines on a dairy farm, you could surely say dairy cows because in order to produce milk, they must have had a calf. So often times you hear the term “dairy cows and beef cattle.”

Here are some other differentiators between male, female, and baby animals and a couple other fun facts mixed in between!

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Image By Cameron Watson, Shutterstock

Cattle farm terms

Bovine: a wild or domesticated animal that is part of the cattle group (to include bison and buffalo)

Cow: female bovine that’s had a calf

Heifer: female bovine that has never had a calf

Bull: an intact (not castrated) male bovine, used primarily for breeding

Steer: a castrated male bovine, used primarily for beef production

Calf: a young bovine under one year of age

Pig farm terms

Fun fact, did you know one sow (female pig) can have up to 36 piglets a year?

Swine: a broad term for pigs

Hog: a domesticated pig

Piglet: a young pig

Sow: a female pig that has had piglets

Farrow: When a mother sow gives birth to piglets

Boar: an intact (not castrated) male swine

Barrow: a castrated male pig

Gilt: a female pig under a year old that has not had a litter of piglets (farrowed)

Image courtesy of USDA, Flickr

Sheep farm terms

Ewe: a female sheep

Ram: a male sheep (not castrated)

Wether: a castrated male sheep

Lamb: a young sheep, under a year old

Image By napocska, Shutterstock

Chicken farm terms

Fun fact, a hen can sit on 10 to 12 eggs for three weeks before they hatch!

Layer: a female chicken used for egg production

Broiler: chickens used for meat production — may be male or female

Hen: an adult female chicken

Rooster: a male chicken

Pullet: a young hen, under a year old

Chick: a newly hatched young bird

Goat farm terms

Doe: (or Nanny) an adult female goat

Billy: a male goat

Buck: a male goat that can breed (not castrated)

Wether: a castrated male goat

Doeling: a female goat under one year of age

Buckling: a male goat under a year of age

Kids: a goat under 12 months of age — usually referring to younger, baby goats

Equine/horse farm terms

Mare: a female horse

Stallion: an intact (not castrated) male horse

Gelding: a castrated male horse

Filly: a young female horse

Colt: a young male horse

Yearling: a male or female horse between 1 and 2 years old

Foal: a male or female horse less than a year old

Hope you’ve enjoyed this list of farm-animal terms and learned a little bit about the specifics of each species.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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