Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mooooove your vocabulary up a notch

I had a student tell me the other day about the "cow" they were taking to the fair. They were explaining how it they had castrated it over the weekend. I held up my hand and said, "Stop right there." I knew that this student was in fact not telling me about a "cow," but instead they referencing a "steer." What's the difference? Funny you should ask! Here are some words that will help you sound more intelligent the next time you're standing around the water cooler. 

Calf: A young animal of the cattle species (Our calves stay in individual pens at an early age, so we can provide specialized care for them.)

Heifer: A young female that has not yet had offspring (This is Greg's heifer, Barb. Heifers live together in groups on our farm.)

Cow: A female that has had at least one calf (These are two of our lovely cows enjoying a balanced ration.)

Bull: An intact male that is capable of reproducing (This picture is courtesy of NREL. Bulls are used for breeding.)

Steer: A castrated male (Iowa State Extension gets the credit for this picture. Steers are most often raised for meat.)

There you have it: five words you can use to impress your friends with your knowledge of the cattle industry!


  1. As a city girl who loves cows (and bulls, heifers, etc.) I really appreciated this lesson! Thanks for the post

  2. A pretty funny experience. The truth about agriculture is that we know very little from schools to universities. In the city we know very little agricultural vocabulary and this is part of a lack of interest in their diets, their daily life and also the encounter with a vital part of the economy of a country. I've found pages sponsored by the Colombian state from where I’m where you can find information on agro but the important thing is to make people recognize and increase their interest in the life and the way of their food.