A compilation of cattle terms and definitions from words commonly used to describe cattle.


Breaks in the Chine: Breaks in the back (curve in the back)

Broken over in the knee: They just buckle over in the knee, no one says it, is just an indication of lameness

Body Condition Score:  A score on a scale of 1 to 9, reflecting the amount of fat reserves in a cow’s body, where 1 = very thin and 9 = extremely fat.

Calving Ease Score: A numerical score quantifying calving ease, ranging from 1 for an easy, unassisted calving through 5 for an abnormal presentation.

Capacious: Lots of space, room to grow (could be used to describe many aspects of an animal)

Carries through to Twist: Adequate amount of muscle down the back and inside of

Cute Headed: Short muzzled (like Irish whiskey cattle), usually means earlier maturing

Embryo Transfer:  Removing fertilized ova (embryos) from one cow (the donor), generally in response to hormone-induced superovulation, and placing these embryos into other cows (the recipients). More calves can be obtained from cows of superior breeding value by this technique

F1:  Offspring resulting from the mating of a purebred (straight-bred) bull to purebred (straight-bred) females of another breed.

Flat Ribbed: is the same as being “slab sided” meaning they lack the desired shape to the rib which lends to having more volume or internal width. It doesn’t necessarily make one shallow or short, which are other indicators that an animal lacks volume and capacity…those are different, though. Slab sided cattle are typically also lighter muscled and narrow based, but I don’t suppose that is automatically the case.
Flat Boned: Cannon bones appear to be more flat than round when viewed from profile
Freemartin:  Female born twin to a bull calf (approximately 9 out of10 will be infertile).

Green:  generally means “not ready”. It often refers to body condition…if a calf is lean or lacking condition, we’d say the calf is “green”. The term is also used to describe cattle that are “green broke” meaning they’ve been started on halter, but need more work.

Goose Necked/Fronted: Rocket fronted, choke neck, clean necked and throat latch, without excessive leather or skin

Heavy Footed: Heavy and slow in movement, big footed

High Pinned: Pin bones are set higher than the hook bones, giving the hip an upward appearance as opposed to being level from hooks to pins (desirable) or dropping in her pins. From a production standpoint, a sloped hip does make more sense because the calf comes out in a downward direction. Cattle that slope badly from hooks to pins tend to have more slope to other angles including shoulders and pasterns and might also tend to have more set to the hock. Everything is connected!

Hind Leg: They carry lower between their legs.  Poplar haven red alert was the first fullblood that supposedly did this.  Too bad, he was notorious for no milk and his use was quickly curtailed.  He is still in a lot of popular bloodlines, i.e. sooner.

Maintenance Energy Requirement:  The amount of feed energy required per day by an animal to maintain its body weight and support necessary metabolic functions.

Maternal EPD:  An EPD representing the effect of the genes of an individual’s daughters on the trait of interest. A calving ease maternal EPD, for example, represents the ease with which an individual daughters calve are born. See also Direct EPD.

Outbreeding (Outcrossing): Mating together of animals that are not closely related. Mild outbreeding is illustrated by mating cows to a sire of their own breed but who is not closely related to them. Such outcrossing may widen the genetic base in a herd and reduce inbreeding accumulation. A higher level of outcrossing is illustrated by crossing two Bos taurus breeds. This generally would result in beneficial heterosis for economically important traits.
Ovulation:  Release of the female germ cell (egg or ovum) by the ovary. Cows usually ovulate several hours (up to 15 hours) after the end of estrus or standing heat.

Palatability:  Acceptable to the taste or sufficiently agreeable in flavor to be eaten.

Parturition: The act of giving birth; calving.

Pedigree:  A tabulation of names of an individual’s ancestors, usually only those of the three to five closest generations. Pedigree information is used to establish genetic relationships among individuals to use in genetic evaluations.

Pone Fat: The fat deposited on either side of the tail. Tail pones are useful in predicting quality grade in all cattle, especially dairy and exotic breeds. Animals showing no fat deposits on either side of the tail head should be considered for the standard quality grade. Select quality grade will show only small amounts of pone fat (about the size of a tennis ball) and choice grade cattle will show moderate amounts of pone fat (about the size of a soft ball).

Phenotype:  The visible or measurable expression of a character; weaning weight, post wean gain, or reproduction for example. For most traits, phenotype is influenced by both genotype and environment. The relative degree to which phenotypic variation among individuals is caused by transmissible genetic effects is the heritability of a trait

Polled: Naturally hornless cattle. Having no horns or scurs.

Postpartum Interval:  The number of days between parturition (Birth) and the first postpartum estrus (First Heat after Birth).

Post legged: Little or no set to the hock. The back legs appear very straight, and the animal tends to swing the hind leg from the hip instead of flexing the hock to move forward. Picture yourself walking without bending your knee… The opposite of post legged is sickle hocked, when there is too much set to the hock joint.

Progeny: The young, or offspring, of the parents.

Pounds Heavy: They are shorter but weigh more than taller cattle and because volume weighs more than height, they are deceptively heavier

Pounds Heavy: Means they weigh more. If we have the ability to weigh the animal, this becomes definitive, not subjective. If we don’t have scales–and often we don’t–it’s important to learn to estimate weight and differences in performance. The one that weighs the most is the pounds heavy calf.

Roomy Middled: Big barreled, lots of spring in ribs, capacious

Soggy: big bellied, deep bodied, proper to heavier conditioned, soft, easy feeding looking

Stout animal: Ex.1 Big boned, huge footed, wide based, etc.
Ex.2 Thick bodied, big assed, deep quartered, bold and wide through the chest floor, etc.

Scrotal circumference: A measure of testes size obtained by measuring the distance around the testicles in the scrotum with a circular tape. Related to semen producing capacity and age at puberty of female sibs and progeny.

Scurs:  Horny tissue or rudimentary horns that are attached to the skin rather than the bony parts of the head

Super Ovulation: Process by which a cow is treated with reproductive hormones to induce her to produce more eggs than normal. (Used in Flushing Cows)

True Skeletal Width:

Wasty Middled: An indication of unfitness, loosey skinned, fatty look, kind of like the rear end of an expecting cow.

Weak Loined: Weak in the top over the loin area(middle of back). This animal appears to have a sway in their back, as opposed to a strong or straight top, which is straight from the top of the shoulder to the curve of the tail head. These animals are usually loose structured and still sounder made than cattle that “bow their top” which tend to be straighter off both ends and have less flex to the hock, knee and pastern.