The following definitions explain terms used in this topic area. At the bottom of this page are links to online glossaries that provide additional information.

Antibiotic. A substance that destroys or inhibits the growth or action of microorganisms.

Aquaculture. The production of aquatic plants or animals in a controlled environment, such as ponds, raceways, tanks, or cages, for all or part of their life cycles.

Backgrounding. The preparation of young cattle for a feedlot, accustoming them to confinement facilities and feeds.

Barrow. A male hog that has been castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Boar. An uncastrated (sexually intact) male hog.

Bovine. Pertaining to cattle, both beef and dairy.

Broiler. A young chicken produced for meat.

Broodfish. Fish kept for egg production, including males. Broodfish produce the fertilized eggs that go to hatcheries.

Bull. A sexually mature, uncastrated bovine male, generally employed for breeding purposes.

Byproduct. A product other than muscle meat harvested or manufactured from livestock.

Cattle cycle. Cyclical increases and decreases in cattle inventories over time, which arise because biological constraints prevent producers from instantly responding to price. In general, the cattle cycle is determined by the combined effects of cattle prices, climatic conditions, and the time needed to breed, calve, and raise cattle to market weight.

Confinement. Keeping an animal within buildings, corrals, or pens during all stages of production.

Cow. A mature bovine female, usually having had a least one calf.

Creep feeder. A small feeding pen built with a small entrance through which only young, small animals can enter. This arrangement prevents larger animals from crowding the smaller ones from the feed.

Crustacean. Invertebrate animals with many jointed legs and a hard external shell, such as crawfish, shrimp, soft-shell crabs, and prawns.

Cull. To remove from the herd or flock, usually undesirable and/or inefficient (unprofitable) breeding stock that will be sent to slaughter.

Doe. A female goat, deer, or rabbit.

Dressed weight. The weight of a chilled animal carcass. Carcasses typically have the feet, head, hide, and internal organs removed, although there are some variations across species.

Drying off. The process of using certain management practices, such as reducing milking frequency and changing feed rations, to stop milk production. A dry cow is not lactating.

Ewe. A female sheep.

Farrow. To give birth to a litter of pigs.

Farrow-to-finish operations. Operations where pigs are farrowed and finished to a slaughter weight of 225-300 pounds.

Feeder cattle. Cattle, ready to be finished for market, weighing 550 to 650 pounds or more. Usually yearling cattle (between 1 and 2 years old) with a big frame.

Feeder pigs. Young pigs, usually weighing 40 to 60 pounds, ready to be finished for market.

Feedlot. Facility where cattle are confined in a small area and fed carefully mixed, high-concentrate feed to fatten them. On average, cattle are fed here about 5 months, although this can vary from 3 months to 9 months, depending on their weight when they enter and their desired final condition.

Fed cattle. Slaughter cattle (usually steers and heifers) that have been finished on concentrated feed.

Fingerlings. Young, small fish. For trout, fingerlings are defined as fish from 1 to 6 inches long. For catfish, fingerling weight is 60 pounds per 1,000 fish and less.

Finishing. The stage of production prior to slaughter where animals are typically fed rations of grain or other concentrates. The finishing stage increases an animal's weight and produces desirable carcass characteristics.

Game birds. Birds--such as pheasant, grouse, partridge, or quail--that are widely hunted for sport. 

Gilt. Female hog, usually less than 15 months of age, which has not produced a litter.

Heifer. A bovine female that has not given birth to a calf.

Hen. An adult female chicken or turkey.

Hog production phases. Four commonly used categories that describe stages of the hog production process: 1) breeding and gestation--breeding females and maintaining them during the gestation period; 2) farrowing-to-wean--the time from the birth of baby pigs until weaning; 3) nursery--the care of pigs immediately after weaning until about 30-80 pounds; and 4) finishing--the feeding of hogs from 30-80 pounds to a slaughter weight of 225-300 pounds.

Kid. A young goat.

Lactation. The process of secreting milk.

Lamb. A term that refers both to young sheep and the meat obtained from sheep that are generally slaughtered within 12-14 months of birth.

Marbling. Fat interspersed within lean beef muscle. Distinguished from exterior fat that does not directly affect meat quality. More marbling is usually associated with higher palatability.

Market hog. A barrow or gilt ready for slaughter, weighing 240 to 260 pounds.

Mohair. The long, lustrous fleece covering Angora goats, used for special kinds of cloth.

Mollusk. Invertebrate animals with soft body coverings and shells of one to eight parts or sections. This group includes clams, mussels, oysters, abalone, and snails.

Mutton. Meat from older sheep that were once part of a breeding herd.

Packer. A firm that slaughters or slaughters and processes livestock or poultry.

Pig. Name applied to domesticated swine of all ages and sizes in most countries of the world, except the United States, where "pig" commonly means younger animals (typically those weighing less than 100 pounds) while "hog" refers to all larger animals.

Poult. A young turkey of either sex, usually not more than 2 months of age.

Pullet. A female chicken less than 1 year old, or a young female chicken before she begins to lay eggs.

Ram. A male sheep that has not been castrated, generally employed for breeding purposes.

Red meat. The carcass after slaughter for beef, veal, pork, lamb, and mutton.

Rooster. An adult male chicken.

Sow. A female hog that has produced at least one litter.

Stag. A male animal castrated at or near maturity after having developed definite masculine characteristics.

Steer. A bovine male castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Stocker calves. Young, growing animals on pasture and given very little other feed, with the intention of increasing weight and maturity before being placed in a feedlot.

Tom. A male turkey.

Veal. Meat from the carcass of a young calf.

Vealer. Calves fed (usually only milk) for early slaughter, usually less than 4 months old and weighing less than 350 pounds.

Vertical integration. The linkage of firms in different stages of production or marketing under the ownership of a single firm (from Gail L. Cramer and Clarence W. Jensen, Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Sixth Edition, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1994).

Yearling mutton. Meat from sheep that are generally slaughtered when they are older than 14 months of age, but were never a part of the breeding herd and show carcass maturity characteristics more advanced than those of lamb.

Other Online Glossaries for Livestock and Animal Products

Below are links to other online glossaries from government, university, and other non-commercial sources. Some focus on individual animal species or products; some are for livestock in general; and others focus on animal products and food safety.

Glossaries by Species or Product

Glossary of Beef Production Terms, Purdue University Extension Service

Dairy Glossary Index, California Department of Agriculture

Glossaries for General Livestock and Animal Products

Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma State University

Glossary of Forage Terms, Forage Information System, Oregon State University

Glossary of Food Safety Terms, Iowa State University Extension Service

Grazing Management Terms, University of California Cooperative Extension