A glossary of farming terms

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Your first port of call for farming terminology. This glossary will be added to from time to time so bookmark the page and come back often!

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Ambient store
A store in which the temperature is maintained at a level that best suits the harvested crop.
Small insects that feed by sucking the sap from plants.
Artificial insemination (AI)
Semen from a bull is collected, divided into small packets called straws and preserved by freezing. Straws are sold on to any farms that want offspring from that particular bull. The semen in the straw is inserted into the cow or heifer, either by the farmer, by a vet or by a specially trained contractor. AI allows a farmer to produce calves from particularly good bulls without having to have the animal on the farm. It also gives greater control over when calving takes place.
Avian Influenza
A group of diseases that affect all birds and sometimes other animals, including humans. See our more detailed pages on the diseases of livestock.


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A finished pig sold for bacon. Older and larger than a porker.
See Yard.
see Avian Influenza
Blob Marker
A device that leaves a temporary trail of foam blobs - a bit like bubble bath foam - so that a tractor driver can see where he has already been when working in a manner that leaves no tracks (Spreading slug pellets for example).
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
One of a group of diseases that cause dementia in many animals. See our more detailed pages on the diseases of livestock.
Bovine Tuberculosis
A disease caused by a bacterium that can infect a great many animals and humans too. It is the main reason for the pasteurisation of milk. See our more detailed pages on the diseases of livestock.
see Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
Male cattle which have been castrated. The effects of castration are to make the cattle grow more quickly and to stop them reproducing.
Busk Calf
A calf sold at weaning: 6-10 months old.


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Pelleted feed usually made from a mix of feeds and minerals. Usually about 8mm in diameter and 20mm long. The feeds are often byproducts from the food industry. As examples Sugar beet pulp is what is left when sugar has been extracted from the sugar beet, maize pulp is left when corn syrup is extracted from maize, and rape meal is what is left when rape oil is extracted from rape seed, normally for use in cooking oils. Any of these may be combined with other ingredients and compressed into cake.
Calf Pellets
See Cake - Calf pellets are usually smaller versions with a slight change in ingredients.
Cast or 'draft' ewes are older hill sheep that are sold on for continued breeding in less harsh, lowland conditions.
Chick Crumbs
Small particles of specially formulated feed suitable for very young poultry.
Mud (Dialect N England & S Scotland.)
A disease caused by microscopic, single-cell organisms called coccidia. It is particularly harmful in poultry flocks.
Common fell grazing
Common fells are uplands where sheep flocks from several different farms graze freely without fences or walls.
A 'feed compounder' or 'feed mill' that produces animal feed for sale. Usually they produce a fixed specification feed using a blend of a variety of ingredients to produce the required specification at least cost using a computer program.
Cow Cake
See Cake
Crop rotation
Varying from year to year what is grown on a particular piece of land. This practice helps to avoid the build-up of pests and diseases specific to a particular crop. One crop may also put back into the soil nutrients taken out by another.
Sheep produced by crossing two different recognised breeds Often leads to a stronger, more disease-resistant animal.
Individual partitions withing a cattle shed. The partitions are not separated by barriers, the lying areas are separated by barriers where cows can lie inside buildings. They differ from stalls in that the animal is not fastened in the stall and can come and go as it pleases.
Cull ewes
Ewes that have reached the end of their productive life on the farm.


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Wool clogged with dung. Usually forms teardrop shaped pendants dangling under the tail and around the anus of sheep. If allowed to remain dags may become infested with maggots which in some cases may go on to infest the flesh of the living sheep.
The process of trimming away dags. An unpleasant job if the dung has had time to ferment.
The place where milk is processed or stored. On farms the building housing stainless steel tanks where milk is stored and cooled.
See 'Cast.'
A machine towed by a tractor that plants seeds in rows a fixed distance apart. An alternative to broadcasting where seed is thrown into the air, either by hand or machine, and lands in a random pattern across the field. See Tull, Jethro.
Dry off
Milk production is stimulated by the birth of a calf. It continues as long as the calf or the milking machine keeps removing the milk. It dries up completely if the calf does not drink or the cow is not milked.
Mud (Dialect S Scotland.)
A hard grained, high-protein variety of wheat that is preferred for pasta production. Durum is usually half-ground to produce the very coarse flour known as semolina.


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Fallow land
Land that is being given a temporary rest from crop production.
See Yard.
Feed Mill
A place where animal feeds are manufactured.
A substance added to the soil to increase its productivity.
The word flink is (supposed to be) used for twelve or more cattle in a group. It appears to be a term local to parts of North America, mainly central USA and even there does not seem to be in common use. The only modern usage we can find is by crossword compilers stuck for a word.
Fodder beet
A type of sugar beet grown for feeding to cattle or sheep.
Foot and Mouth Disease
A highly contagious disease of cloven hooved animals - see the Foot and Mouth Disease FAQs on this site.
A chemical used to control or destroy fungi in crops.


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An adult, female sheep that is not in lamb when others are. Often she has been kept away from the ram because of problems at a previous lambing. Gelt ewes are fattened for sale to the meat trade at a time when lamb is in short supply.
A female sheep that has been weaned but not yet sheared. i.e. about 6 months to 15 months old.
Grass ley
Grass that is sown in the expectation that it will only last for a limited period before being ploughed up. There are short-term leys (1 or 2 years), medium-term leys (up to 5 years) and long-term leys (5-7 years). Beyond that the land will probably be permanent pasture.
Grower Pellets
The poultry feed equivalent to weaner pellets - suitable for fast growing juvenile birds.


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Hagberg Falling Number
A measure of the quality of wheat and its suitability for certain processes. In practice it is a measure of the viscosity of a broth made from the grain. A sample of the grain is ground, mixed with water and heated. It is put into a narrow tube and the time taken in seconds for a weighted plunger to fall a fixed distance is noted.
The stems of potato plants
Dried grass used for animal feed. It is cut, left to dry in the field and then baled. It is fed to livestock through the winter when fresh grass not available. Nowadays rarely used except for horses as it's production is unreliable in the UK climate. See our stock and crops pages for more details.
See hefting
the acclimatising of a flock of hill sheep to 'their' part of the hillside. A hefted flock is worth more to a farmer than one that has not been acclimatised as they roam far less and are easier to manage.
A young female cow. A maiden heifer has not yet had a calf.
Chemicals used to control or destroy weeds.
Hill farming
Farming in the upland areas of Britain.
Male or female sheep from weaning to first shearing.


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Encourage the growth of a crop by supplying extra water.


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Killing out percentage
The proportion of an animal that is edible meat as opposed to inedible material such as bones or skin.


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Producing milk.
A place where livestock are kept temporarily. A waiting, holding or recovery area supplied with appropriate feeding and watering facilities. They are commonly found at markets, ports and abbotoirs.
Before the invention of two-way ploughs soil could only be turned one way. For convenience fields were divided into sections called lands which were ploughed by going round and around turning the soil to the middle. Lands were sited in different places each year.
Layer Pellets
Poultry food suitable for birds producing large numbers of eggs.
Less Favoured Area (LFA)
Area of the country designated under European Union rules as needing extra financial support to sustain farming communities.


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The old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, now replaced by DEFRA.
Animal dung generally mixed with the bedding straw and 'composted'.
Market Garden
A small scale intensive farm producing (usually) vegetables and fruit for sale in local markets, sometimes direct to local businesses and the public.
An infection of the udder. If left untreated it can severely damage the ability of a cow or sheep to produce milk.
See Meat and Bone Meal
A dry mix of feed ingredients, usually with the individual feeds distinguishable in the mix.
Meat and Bone Meal
An ingredient in animal feed and fertiliser. It is produced largely from the bits humans don't want to or can't eat. Typically guts and bones, but also carcasses unfit for human consumption. The meat is ground and heat treated (ie cooked) and then dried to a meal. The product is high in fat, protein and essential minerals (like phosphorus).
Milking Parlour
A place where cows (or other animals) are milked. Usually attached to a dairy.
1: To Mill, verb - grind ingredients to make Meal OR 2: noun - a synonym for Meal.
Mole Drain/Plough
A narrow, unlined drain in clay soil made with a special plough. A long narrow blade with a cylindrical foot is dragged through poorly draining soil leaving a circular cross sectioned hole with a disturbed section of soil above it. Mole drains require no liners and may continue to work for several years in really sticky soils.
Muck spreading
Animal manure contains nutrients that can benefit the soil. Farms that have a lot of manure, removed from buildings where animals have been housed during the winter, may spread it onto their fields to act as a fertiliser.


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Nurse Crop
A shelter crop. A quick growing, hardy crop sowed thinly along with a tender, slower growing crop in order to give shelter from harsh conditions during the early stages of growth. The Nurse crop is then killed or harvested before the main growing season leaving the desired crop to grow away. For example: winter sown oats, taken as silage in the spring, may be used to nurse field crops and birch is used to shelter timber trees for the first twenty years of their life.


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Sheep from upland areas of Britain are regularly sent for the winter to lowland areas where feed is more available and the weather less harsh. They return to the uplands before lambing in the spring. The owner of the sheep pays the owner of the lowland farm a certain amount per sheep
Oxen, usually cattle trained to work as draught animals. See our farming history pages for more details.


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See Milking Parlour
Chemicals used to control or destroy crop pests. They include insecticides, herbicides (aimed at weeds), molluscicides (aimed at slugs and snails), and fungicides (aimed at fungi).
Damage caused to grassland when animals churn up the fields during wet weather.
A finished pig sold for pork. The youngest grade of adult pigmeat.


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Quota - milk
Every country in the European Union has a limit to the amount of milk that it is allowed to produce. That is its 'quota'. The total quota is divided up between all the dairy farmers in the country. Their individual quota is the number of litres of milk that they are allowed to produce each year. There are heavy financial penalties for producing too much milk and going 'over quota'. A farmer who does not use all of his quota may sell or lease it to another farmer. Anyone who wishes to start producing milk or to expand their business must first buy or lease quota.
Quota - sheep
The European Union pays a subsidy to farmers who keep sheep. This subsidy is known as Sheep Annual Premium (SAP). There is a limit to the amount of subsidy that any farmer can claim, governed by how much quota the farm possesses. A farmer who has 100 units of quota may only claim the subsidy for 100 breeding ewes or ewe lambs, even if he has many more sheep in total. Originally, every farmer who registered was given some quota by the government. Now, if they need more quota it must be bought or leased from another farmer who has some to spare. Quota is not needed to keep sheep, only to claim the subsidy.


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Fitting rams with a harness that contains a paint block. The paint leaves a mark on the rump of each ewe with whom the ram mates. Lack of a mark tells the farmer which ewes should remain longer with the ram. Sometimes thick paint is applied directly to the ram's chest rather than using a harness. This wears off more quickly and must be renewed regularly.
Residual herbicide
A herbicide that will remain in the soil and continue to destroy weeds long after it is applied.
Of sheep - overturned. A heavily pregnant, broad backed ewe may roll over and be unable to right herself. She is rigwelted. There is also a beer called Rigwelter due to the similar effect it is said to have on humans.
A sign that sheep are ready for shearing. The previous winter's greasy wool is lifted away from the skin by new wool that is much easier to cut. The Rise is seen as a yellowish line.
Rough grazing
Grazing on natural, unmanaged grass and other vegetation growing on mountain slopes, moorland etc.
An animal (they are all herbivores) that 'chew the cud'. Examples are cattle, sheep and deer but NOT horses. They digest more of a plant than 'single stomached' animals by having a 'rumen' (the first of several stomachs) where the plant material they have eaten are fermented by micro-organisms to produce proteins and sugars the animal can digest.


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A fungal disease of wheat and to a lesser extent of barley and oats. The spores of septoria are spread by rain splashes and a wet spring can promote a severe infection. Septoria reduces the number, size and quality of grains produced. The yield of an infected crop may be cut by up to 40% and in some cases it may not be worth harvesting.
Making an animal pregnant naturally or by artificial insemination.
Land that arable farmers must take out of production for one or more years. In exchange for setting aside the land from production the farmer receives compensation for the crop he would otherwise have grown
A young sheep between its first and second shearing. Sheep are normally sheared once a year.
Grass or other crops that have been cut, allowed to wilt but not completely dry out, and are then preserved in plastic wrapping or in a large mound or pit (called a clamp) from which all air is excluded. Silage is fed to livestock through the winter when fresh grass is not available. See our Stock and Crops pages for more details.
Animal dung mixed with water or urine. It can be stored in a slurry lagoon before being spread on fields as a fertiliser.
Northern term. Weaning, especially of lambs.
See Bullock.
See Bullock
(West Country) see poaching.
Animals bred for meat production sold before they are ready to be killed. A farmer breeds them and rears them through their early life when they are at greatest risk from disease but because they are small they need relatively little food. They are sold as stores to someone who has plenty of feed available and specialises in fattening them.
Single ingredient animal feedstuffs. 'Straight' barley means just barley and nothing else. Farmers may buy or grow two or three straights and mix them to produce a balanced diet.
Suckler cow
The mother of a calf raised for beef production.


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Three-Point Linkage
Ferguson's invention of a connection that permitted a tractor to lift as well as drag a plough or other implement. This made it possible to cultivate a much wider range of soils than before.
Strictly a secondary flowering/seedbearing stalk in wheat or other cereal plant. Desirable in that the plant produces a greater number of seeds per seed planted. The term is sometimes used loosely to refer to any, including the primary, flowering stalk.
Top dress
Apply fertiliser to a growing crop.
Cutting down weeds and grass that have grown too long. The equivalent of mowing the lawn.
Townsend 'Turnip'
'Turnip' Townsend devised a winter feeding regime whereby root crops were grown for animal fodder. Prior to this most livestock was slaughtered in the autumn and the remainder barely survived on hay until the spring. Modern silage systems have largely replaced the root crops.
A cereal crop that is a cross between rye and wheat.
Truck Farm(ing)
USA: Term equivalent to 'Market Garden' (see above). Truck means to trade or barter - still sometimes used as in: 'I will have no truck with him.'
Tull Jethro
Invented a seed drill. The sowing of seed in rows made it possible to use a horsedrawn hoe and thereby increase efficiency.
A male sheep. Another word for 'ram'.


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Unfinished lambs - Stores
Butchers will only buy lambs that have reached a certain weight and level of fatness. How long it takes a lamb to grow to this size varies according to breed, birth weight and food available. Some lambs finish sooner than others. On hill farms where there is not enough outdoor feed for lambs, any remaining at the end of the year may be sold as stores, to be finished on lowland farms during the winter and spring.


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Weaner Pellets
See Cake. Small or juvenile animal pellets are usually smaller in size with adjusted ingredients.
A castrated male sheep.
A byproduct of flour milling. It contains fragments of bran, seedcoat and some flour. Rather dusty but a useful animal food.


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Multi-purpose word describing areas in and around buildings, usually where stock is kept, things stored, or used by traffic.
A slang term for a female sheep


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Zero grazing
Fields of grass are grown but the animals are not allowed to graze them. Instead, the grass is cut regularly and taken to the animals. It has the advantage that fields are never poached and all the grass is used rather than animals just grazing the best bits. Against this must be set the cost of machinery, fuel and labour.

If the word you are seeking is not here then you may ask a farmer and we'll email you the meaning. We might add it to the glossary too.

An alternative source of detailed answers to some common queries are the Farm-Direct FAQs.

Or you could visit some of the sites on our Links Page, maybe they can help.