Farm Glossary

Discover the various terms and meaning of words around the farm!

A to B

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

Agribusiness: a way of farming that combines agriculture and business and usually involves large amounts of land, animals, and expensive technology be

Artifact: a historical object made by humans

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.

Bacteria: microorganisms that live in the soil and convert nutrients into forms usable by plants

Barrow: A male pig that has been castrated.

Bovine: cattle

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.

Breed: to produce offspring by giving birth or by hatching

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.

Bushel: a measurement of capacity or size

C to D

Canal: a waterway built to let boats navigate the waters

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.

Cash Crop: what a farmer raises, crop or livestock, to sell for money

Cellulose: component of plant cell walls that is not digestible by most animals

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

Cob: the large round mass of an ear of corn where kernels grow

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.

Combine: a machine used for harvesting grain

Commodity: an agricultural good

Compaction: the compression of air spaces in the soil by heavy machinery

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.

Corn Ears: the part of a corn plant containing the corn cob, husk, and kernels

Corn Husk: the leaf like layer on the outside of corn ears, also known as a "shuck"

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.

Cradle: a tool used for gathering a crop once it is finished growing

Cultivate: to improve the land by plowing and fertilizing

Disk: to prepare the soil for planting by cutting the soil with rotating metal disks

Doe: Female goat.

Doe: Mature, female deer.

Doeling: A young, female goat (teenager).

Domesticate: to tame and breed for human use

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 to F

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.

Ecology: the study of the environment and how living things interact with it

Ecosystem: a community of living and non-living things that interact by exchanging matter and energy

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.

Environment: physical surroundings; all that is around you

Enzymes: proteins that start a chemical reaction

Erosion: to wear away topsoil by water or wind and can be caused by intensive farming and overgrazing

Ethanol: a form of natural gas that can be produced from corn

Ewe: A female sheep that has had a lamb.

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

Excrete: to get rid of waste, such as manure

Expense: cost or charge of money

Extension Agency: an outreach arm of an agricultural university which provides educational programs on farming and does research

Fallow: left without tilling or sowing after plowing

Farm Bureau: a non-governmental political agency that works for farmers' rights

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.

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

Feeder cattle: cattle, ready to be finished for market, weighing 550-650 pounds or heavier

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

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.

Finances: management of money affairs

Fixing: in the nitrogen cycle, it is the process of nitrogen changing into a less mobile and more usable form by combining with hydrogen to make amonia

Flail: a wooden bar with a wooden handle used for removing grain or seeds from stalks

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).

4H: an agricultural club for children that features hands-on learning

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.

Future Farmers of America (FFA): an educational organization for young adults who plan to have a career in agriculture

G to K

Gene: the DNA code in the cells of all living things; they determine physical characteristics such as fur color

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).

Grade: classification system of food quality

Grange: an organization of farmers that provides support and plans social functions

Grass: a type of plant with jointed stems, slender flat leaves and spike like flowers such as corn and wheat

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

Grit: the inside of a corn kernel exposed after the outer covering, or hull, is removed

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.

Harvest: to gather a crop when it is finished growing

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.

Hock: back leg of cattle

Homestead: the place where a family makes its home

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

Humus: sticky, brown part of the soil that comes from dead plants and animals and contains many nutrients

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

Hybrid: an offspring of two animals or plants that are of different breeds, varieties or species

Hydroponic: grown in water without the use of soil

Income: a gain in money usually as a result of business or labor

Inputs: the amount of energy and money put into a farm in order to make a product

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.

Intensive grazing: the practice of rotating livestock between pastures to reduce overgrazing

Inventory: a list of current goods that you have or own

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

Kernel: the seed of a grain plant

Kid: A newborn goat.

L to P

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.

Legume: any plant that grows seeds in a pod such as peas and beans

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

Livestock: any animals raised on the farm

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: where products are sold and exchanged

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

Matter: the material which makes up something

Mutton: Meat from mature sheep (not lambs)

Mill: a machine used to grind grain for food

Microorganisms: tiny living things that can only be seen with a microscope

Monoculture: planting the same crop in a field year after year with no crop rotation

No till: a method of growing grain when the farmer does not plow the field before planting

Nodule: a swelling on the root of a legume that contains bacteria that fix nitrogen from the air

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: 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.

Offal: the inedible parts of a butchered animal removed in dressing it

Organic farming: producing foods without the use of laboratory made fertilizers, growth subtances, or pesticides

Organic matter: the dead plants, animals and manure converted by earthworms and bacteria into humus

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.

Pastures: land or a plot of land used for the grazing of animals

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

pH: a value that indicates the acidity of the soil

Photosynthesis: the process by which green plants use light energy from the sun to produce sugar from water and the air

Piglet: A newborn pig.

Plow: to work the soil by turning over the top layer; the machine used to turn the top layer of soil

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

Pollinate: to fertilize by transferring pollen from the anther to the stigma of a flower

Pork bellies: meat from the belly area of a pig; used for bacon

Port: a town or city where ships are loaded with products to be shipped overseas

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.

Q to S

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.

Rendering plant: a place where lard, tallow, and oil are extracted from animal parts

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.

Rotation: the changing of the specific fields used for one crop year to year

Row Dividers: the large points on the end of a combine used to pick-up corn

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.

Rumen: the first large compartment of the stomach of a bovine; its bacteria and protazoa break down cellulose

Scythe: a blade with a long handle used to cut grass, grain, and other crops

Shear: the act of cutting hair or wool

Shock: a pile of grain that is set up like a cone

Silage: a mixture of raw materials such as field corn, sorghum, grass, or clover that is converted into winter feed for livestock

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).

Slaughterhouse: a place where animals marketed for meat are killed humanely

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 Conservation: careful preservation or protection of soil

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.

Species: a group of living things that share common biological characteristics

Steer: a bull that has been castrated for better meat production

Stewardship: an individual's responsibility to exercise care over possessions entrusted to him or her

Sub-division: a piece of land to be divided into smaller lots, typically for housing

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.

T to Z

Technology: instruments, tools or inventions developed through research to increase efficiency

Tenant: a person who pays rent to live on someone else's land

Thresh: to beat out a grain or seed from a stalk by treading, rubbing or striking with a flail, or with a machine

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.

Total Mixed Ration: a feed combination of hay, corn, barley, field grasses, cotton seed, and bakery or grocery by-products

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.

Urbanization: the growth of the city into rural areas

USDA: United States Department of Agriculture, a Federal agency involved in all phases of agriculture

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.

Weed: any unwanted plant, especially those that crowd out more desirable plants

Wether: A neutered male sheep.

Work ethic: qualities of character believed to be promoted by work

Yield: the amount of a crop produced in a given time or from a given place