Farm glossary

Farming in Canada can be full of a lot of confusing terminology and lingo. Even those working in the industry can get confused if, for example, they work in a greenhouse but don’t know anything about raising chickens. Here’s a glossary of terms that are commonly used in agriculture

Acre
1 acre = 43,560 sq. ft. or 0.405 hectares

Artificial Insemination
The use of frozen semen from selected sires to breed animals. It allows farmers to use top genetics to improve each generation of new animals.

Avian Influenza (AI or Bird Flu)
A virus that infects wild birds and domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese). Some forms of the flu in birds are worse than others.

Barrow
A male pig that has been castrated.

Bedding
Material such as straw, wood chips or sand used as a floor covering in barns for animal comfort.

Biological Control
Controlling plants, diseases, and animal pests using natural enemies; or inhibiting the reproduction of pests by methods that result in the laying of infertile eggs, etc.

Biological Diversity
Richness and abundance of species, and variety of natural communities. Both the number of species and the number of individuals within each species are important in considering the extent of biological diversity in an area. Also referred to as biodiversity.

Biosecurity
A program to protect barns, animals and poultry from outside dirt and germs. Visitors are asked to wear clean clothes, wash their boots and even sometimes have a shower to ensure they don’t bring any germs into the facility.

Biotechnology
1) bio = life, technology = practical application of knowledge 2) the application of science and engineering in the direct and indirect use of living organisms, or parts or products of living organisms, in their natural or modified forms (e.g. using microorganisms to make wine or cheese)

Boar
Adult male pig.

Bovine
Animals that are members of the cattle family.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
Commonly known as “mad cow disease,” BSE is a slowly progressive, incurable disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle, first diagnosed in Britain in 1986. Consumption by cattle of BSE-contaminated ruminant proteins in animal feed has been cited as one possible means of transmission.

Broiler Chicken
A meat chicken raised to the weight of 2.65 kg or under.

Buck
Male goat.

Buck
Mature, male deer.

Buckling
A young, male goat (teenager).

Buffer strip
Helps prevent water contamination by filtering out soil, fertilizers and manure before they enter a stream.

Buffer Zone
This is the naturalized area that farmers often leave next to a body of water such as a stream or pond. Buffer zones help to prevent water contamination by filtering out soil, fertilizers, and manure and other nutrients before they enter a stream. They also can reduce soil erosion, and promote biodiversity by providing shelter and food for a wide variety of animals, birds and fish.

Bulk Milk Tank
A refrigerated stainless steel storage unit in which milk is cooled quickly to 1°C to 4°C (35° F to 39° F) and stored.

Bull
A mature, male bovine.

Calf
A newborn bovine.

Calf hutches
The white, domed, igloo-like structures that some farmers use as individual housing units for dairy calves.

Candling
A process where the egg is passed over a strong light to make the interior of the egg visible. This allows the grader to see the condition of the shell, the size of the air cell and whether the yolk is well-centered.

Cervids
Elk and deer are both Cervids, which means they are members of the Cervidae (or deer) family.

Chevon
Meat that comes from adult goats.

Chick
The term for a baby chicken (male or female) until it is about three weeks of age

Cockerel
A young male chicken.

Colostrum
The first milk that any animal (including humans) produce after they give birth. This milk helps to pass along the mother’s immunity to disease to her offspring.

Conservation or no tillage farming
In conservation tillage, crops are grown with minimal or no cultivation of the soil. Any organic matter remaining from a previous year´s crop is left on the soil, building up its organic matter. In addition, populations of beneficial insects are maintained, soil and nutrients are less likely to be lost from the field and less time, labour and fuel are required to prepare the field for planting, thus reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Contour Farming
Field operations such as plowing, planting, cultivating, and harvesting on the contour, or at right angles to the natural slope to reduce soil erosion, protect soil fertility, and use water more efficiently.

Corn
Corn is a crop that is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. It is usually used in one of two ways: Corn Silage: The whole plant is harvested while it is still green and is stored in a silo. After the silage is stored in the silo, the wet corn undergoes fermentation, or pickling. In this process, the corn is changed by a bacterial process to make it tastier and easier to digest by the cows. When the silage comes out of the silo it is more palatable. The same process turns wet hay into haylage. Grain Corn: Only the kernels from the plant are harvested and are stored in a dry form. Grain corn is usually ground up and mixed with any barley or oats, a protein food like soybean meal, plus vitamins and minerals.

Cow
A mature, female bovine.

Cow/calf farm
Beef cows and calves typically live on pasture in spring, summer and fall on farms called cow/calf farms where they eat a diet of mostly grasses.

Crop Rotation
Farmers use crop rotation to improve soil health and control pests. For example, the roots of a grain crop like wheat are similar to the grass in your lawn while the roots of corn tend to me more like a carrot, or tap root. Planting different crops each year also help keep insects and weeds from building up as different crops are appealing to different pests.

Doe
Female goat.

Doe
Mature, female deer.

Doeling
A young, female goat (teenager).

Drinkers
Automated water lines in barns for animals or poultry to drink from.

Dry Cow
A cow that is waiting to give birth and who is not producing milk.

E. coli 0157:H7 (Escherichia Coli 0157:H7)
A bacterium that lives harmlessly in the intestines of animals such as cattle. However, in humans the bacterium, which can be transmitted through foods, can cause bloody diarrhea, and also lead to a life threatening disease. Although other known strains of E. coli are thought to be harmless to humans, the 0157:H7 strain is particularly virulent and dangerous.

Emu
The emu is the second largest member of the ratite family, by height, next to the Ostrich and is the largest bird native to Australia.

Ewe
A female sheep that has had a lamb.

Ewe lamb
A female sheep that has not yet given birth to a lamb.

Farmers Market
A market where producers, generally farmers, sell their goods directly to consumers.

Farrow
The term used when a pig gives birth.

Fawn
A young deer.

Feed
Commercially prepared food for animals made from grain, fortified with vitamins and minerals to optimize animal nutrition.

Feeder Pig
Piglet after it is weaned from the sow (its mother). They are also known as “weaner” pigs.

Feeders
Automated feed machines which dispense chicken feed (they allow the birds 24-hour access to feed).

Feedlot
Cattle being raised for market are moved to feedlots (penned yards) from the open range and pastures for the final months before marketing. They’re fed a high-energy diet of grains, corn or hay silage or hay. The consistent, high quality feed brings them to market weight faster then on grass alone.

Fertilizer
Any natural or synthetic material added to soil to supply plants with essential nutrients.

Fleece
A sheep’s wool after it has been shorn off, in one piece.

Flock
A group of chickens raised by a farmer.

Flock
A group of sheep

Foot-and-mouth Disease (FMD)
A major disease of cloven-footed animals (e.g., cattle and pigs).

Free Stall dairy barn
In this type of barn, dairy cows are housed in large group pens or individual stalls. They get milked by walking to a milking parlour or a milking robot.

Genetic Engineering
Use of specific laboratory techniques to introduce gene(s) from one species into the genome of another.

Genetic Modification
Changing the genetic traits of an organism by intentional manipulations or modifications either through traditional plant breeding or genetic engineering.

Genetically Modified Organism
A product of genetic modification, however often used in the media to describe a product of genetic engineering specifically.

Gestation
Length of pregnancy.

Gilt
A female pig that has never farrowed (given birth).

Green Manure
A crop planted with the intention of turning it under for use as organic matter.

Groundwater
Water within the earth that supplies wells and springs.

HACCP
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). This is a quality assurance program that identifies risk factors (critical points) to reduce them to an absolute minimum.

Hay
A mixture of grass and legumes, like alfalfa. It is most commonly used in two ways: Haylage: the hay is cut, chopped and stored in a loose way in a storage silo, while it is still moist. Hay: usually cut after haylage when the plants are taller, it is allowed to dry in the field. It is then baled into round or square bales and stored under cover.

Hectare (ha)
A metric measure of area equal to 10,000 square meters. One hectare=2.47 acres.

Heifer
A young female bovine that has not yet had a calf.

Herbicide
Any pesticide used to destroy or inhibit plant growth; a weed killer.

Holstein
The black and white breed of dairy cows, most commonly seen on dairy farms in Canada.

Hybrid
Plants produced by crossing two or more inbred lines of plants that are genetically quite different.

Insecticide
A pesticide used to kill, deter, or control insects.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
A system of managing pests (weeds, insects, disease, fungus, nematodes, rodents) that involves more than one control method – mechanical (e.g. tillage), cultural (e.g. using certified seed), biological (e.g. use of a pest’s natural enemies), or chemical (e.g. pesticides) – in a program that is both economically and environmentally sound. Prevention is the key to IPM and farmers work hard to identify which pests may cause problems in their fields, and which are harmless.

Irrigation
Applying water (or wastewater) to land areas to supply water to the plants.

Kid
A newborn goat.

Lactation
The secretion of milk by the mammary glands. Animals only produce milk only after they have given birth.

Lamb
A sheep under one year of age.

Layer farm
This is where laying hens are housed. Hens lay eggs for 52 to 60 weeks. During this time they will produce about 300 eggs.

Laying hen
The term used to describe a hen after she starts laying eggs at 18-20 weeks of age.

Litter
A group of piglets born at one time from the same sow.

Manure
The original fertilizer. When used correctly, it builds organic matter, which helps hold water and nutrients in the soil. Manure contains three major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and also adds valuable organic matter to the soil.

Marginal land
Land that is too hilly, wet, or contains soils that are fragile and of lower quality for crop production.

Market Hog
Either a barrow (neutered male pig) or gilt (female pig that hasn’t given birth) that is raised for meat production.

Mutton
Meat from mature sheep (not lambs)

N, P, K
Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium; the three major nutrients in manure.

Nutrient
Any chemical element or compound essential to the growth and development of an organism.

Nutrient Management
A plan designed specifically for an individual farm by each farmer that helps them determine how much manure they can use on their land – it tells them the right amount of fertilizer plants need in order to grow a healthy and plentiful crop in an environmentally-friendly way.

Nutrient Management
The practice of applying fertilizers and plant nutrients such as manures in a time and manner to best ensure they will be taken up by growing plants and not leach into the groundwater or wash away.

Organic Matter
Dead plant or animal material (like manure) found in soil.

Ostrich
The Ostrich is the largest member of the “ratite” family and the largest living species of bird in the world. Ostrich are native to Africa.

Pesticides
Used to destroy pests. Fungicides (destroys fungus), herbicides (destroys plants), insecticides (destroys insects), and nematicides (destroys nematodes) are all pesticides.

Piglet
A newborn pig.

Polled
Breeds of goats or cattle that are naturally born without horns.

Poults
From the time they hatch until they’re 14 days old, young turkeys are called ‘poults’. They’re covered with a soft yellow “down” and make a peeping sound.

Pullet
A young female chicken.

Pullet farm
Egg farmers either raise their own pullets or buy them from pullet farms. Within 24 hours of being hatched, chicks are transported to pullet farms where they are raised until they are old enough to lay eggs. At 18 to 20 weeks of age, pullets are transported to layer farms and are then referred to as laying hens.

Ratite
Any member of the group of flightless birds like ostrich, emu or rheas that have a flat breastbone without the keel-like prominence characteristic of most flying birds. This means that they lack a strong anchor for their wing muscles and could not fly even if they did develop suitable wings. The name ratite comes from the Latin word for raft (ratis), because their breastbone looks like a raft.

Rhea
The Rhea is another member of the ratite family, native to South America. These flightless birds are smaller than the Ostrich and the Emu.

Riparian
Pertaining to the area along the banks of a river, stream, or lake.

Roaster Chicken
A larger meat chicken raised to the weight of over 2.65 kg.

Ruminant
A four-stomached animal like cattle, sheep, goats, deer or bison.

Rut
Breeding season for deer. It usually starts in September and lasts until early November.

Silo
Silos are extremely useful to store a wide variety of livestock feeds, including silage. A silo can be vertical (like a tower) or horizontal (called a bunker).

Slatted floors
A barn floor with open spaces to allow manure and other material to pass through. This keeps the barn cleaner for the animals to live in.

Snood
The snood is the fleshy growth that hangs down over the beak of a turkey.

Soil Type
The texture of the soil. This is based on the percentage of sand, silt, and clay. As examples, sandy soils drain water quickly while clay soils hold water and often require tile drainage.

Sow
An adult female pig that has given birth.

Steer
A castrated, male bovine.

Supply Management
The system under which the Canadian chicken, egg, turkey and dairy industries operate. This quota system ensures that farmers of these types of animal and poultry produce the amount of product needed for Canadian consumers. Supply management balances supply with demand and prevents overproduction, flooded markets and depressed prices for farmers. It allows these industries to remain sustainable and profitable for farmers.

Supply Management
The system under which the Canadian chicken, dairy, egg and turkey industries operate. This quota system ensures that Ontario’s farmers of these types produce the required volume for consumer demand. Supply management balances supply with demand and prevents overproduction, flooded markets and depressed prices for farmers.

Tie Stall dairy barn
In this type of barn, dairy cows are tied in stalls next to each other. They have constant access to water and are fed in a manger in front of them. The cows are milked in their stall.

Tile Drainage
Porous drain pipe is buried 0.75 to 1 metre down in the soil of a field allowing water to move to the pipe and drain away quickly. This allows farmers to begin working in their fields earlier in the spring because the excess water is drained away, and yields are increased

Tilling
Ploughing, cultivating or otherwise working up soil to prepare it for planting

Tilth
A term referring to the physical condition of the soil in respect to its suitability for planting crops. Factors used to determine tilth include aeration, moisture content, aggregation of soil particles, drainage and water infiltration.

Tom Turkey
Adult, male turkeys. They can weigh between eight and 20 kg and have a wing span of up to 1.5 metres. It is only Tom turkeys that make the famous “gobble gobble” sound.

Transponder tag
A tag with a computer chip that identifies an animal and transmits information about its feed intake or milk output to the farm’s computer (for statistical purposes).

Udder
The udder is the mammary organ that secretes the animal’s milk. A cow’s udder has four teats. A goat’s udder has two.

Ventilation
Ventilation is extremely important in barns as animals and poultry need to have access to fresh air year-round. There are several types of ventilation systems that are adaptable to the change in seasons.

Veterinarian
A doctor for animals and poultry.

Watershed
An area of land that collects and discharges water into a single stream or other outlet. Also called a catchment or drainage basin.

Wattle
The reddish-pink flesh-like covering on the throat and neck of a turkey. It helps to release extra body heat.

Weaned
This term is used to describe the stage when animals are taken off their mother’s milk and fed solid foods, like grasses.

Wether
A neutered male sheep.