Agriculture lingo cheat sheet

Jargon gets thrown around quite a bit in agriculture. The farmers, ranchers and people who grew up on the farm understand the lingo, but not everyone grew up on a farm. In fact, less than two percent of today’s population is directly involved in food production. That leaves about 98 percent of us trying to decipher ag lingo, so here’s a cheat sheet…

Producer: Sometimes they are called farmers, sometimes they are called ranchers and other times they are called producers. Producer encompasses both farmers and ranchers as they are both producers of food.

Swine: When you hear swine, think pig.

Pigs eating


Sow: An adult, female pig that has had a litter of piglets.

Gilt: A female pig that has not had a litter of piglets.

Biosecurity: Any procedure or practice intended to protect humans and animals against disease.

Bovine: When you hear bovine, think cattle.



Steer: A neutered bovine.

Bull: A bovine that has not been neutered.

Cud: Feed that cattle throw up to chew on again. Kind of gross, but when you see a cow chewing cud, it’s a sign they are comfortable and healthy.

Poult: A young turkey. Don’t call them chicks, you’ll get scolded.

turkey poult


Tom: This could be the farmer’s name, but it is also what a male turkey is called.

Operation: Any ranch or farm that raises animals or crops and is also the primary source of income to provide a livelihood for the farmer.

AI: You might think this stands for artificial intelligence, but usually in an agriculture-context it stands for artificial insemination  – two very different things.

Broiler: A chicken raised for meat.


Broiler chickens

Layer: A hen that lays eggs.

Hen: OK, you have to be careful to not get confused about which bird you’re talking about when you hear hen. A hen can be a female turkey or a layer.

Cow: If you want to show that you really know your ag lingo, be sure to get this one correct. A cow is a fully-grown female animal of the bovine family. So technically a male bovine isn’t a cow, but all domestic bovine regardless of sex are usually referred to as cows.

Heifer: A young, female cow that has not given birth.

Head: A single animal. Often times you’ll hear farmers say they have # head of cattle.


Five head of cattle.


Poultry: Any domesticated bird, such as turkeys, chickens and ducks.

Litter: This can mean two different things (I know, everything has to be so complicated). It could be referring to a set of newborn piglets or it could be the bedding used for poultry.

Flock: Get ready, this is another word with two meanings. A flock can be a group of poultry or a group of sheep.


Flock of sheep

Ewe: A female sheep.

Ram: A male sheep, also a type of truck some farmers drive.

Windbreak: No, this isn’t what the farmers wear out on a windy day. A windbreak is a barrier of trees or bushes put on the side of a barn to  protect the animals from winds or to reduce any odor that drifts to the neighbors.

Any lingo missing? Comment what you think should be added to the list!

One thought on “Agriculture lingo cheat sheet

  1. If in order to be an “operation” your primary source of income must be from your farm, what is it called if you run 200 head and spend 50+ hours a week on the ranch but you make more income (and health insurance) from your 36 hr/week sales job in town? The farm census shows that more producers than ever also work a job away from the farm. Just wondering why it’s not an “operation.” Many lawyers in my area also have 2000+ acre ranches with 500+ head, but that’s not their primary income. I’m not picking on you, I’m genuinely curious and enjoyed your article. 🍴🐂

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