EARLIER in the year we received a very nice note from a gentleman who was clearly of urban origin.

In it he said how much he enjoyed reading the farming pages in the Craven Herald, but so wished we used language he and other non-country folk could understand.

He was referring to the terms used in reference to livestock and farming methods, which to the uninitiated can be confusing.

We have listed the majority of the farmers’ terms below. It is worth mentioning, however, that they are genuine names and terms. They also vary slightly from region to region, but are generally universally understood.

Journalist Robin Moule who writes the farming columns for the Herald said: “The Craven Herald’s farming pages- both in print and online - are not only well read by the agricultural communities and farming families, but also by the general public who are keenly aware of the major contribution made by these custodians of our countryside, both in protecting and managing the environment and putting top quality locally produced food with full traceability and provenance on people’s tables.

"Many farming words and terms that are commonplace and familiar to those working in agriculture will be less so to the man and woman in the street.”

Here’s is a list of the most well-used and genuine terms you’ll hear around every farm and mart, as well as at Skipton Auction Mart.

So if you don’t know your bellwether from your rigwelter - read on and learn!

Cross-breed - An animal that is a product of crossing two or more breeds. This is done to get the best facets of several breeds into one animal.

Fallow land - Land that is being given a temporary rest from crop production.

Hill farming - Farming in the upland areas of Britain.

Lairage - A place where livestock is temporarily kept; a waiting, holding or recovery area supplied with appropriate feeding and watering facilities. They are commonly found at markets, ports and abattoirs.

Livestock - commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, leather and wool.

Pedigree livestock - a pedigree chart pertaining to a pure-bred animal, notably sheep and cattle of both sexes primarily used for breeding.

Ruminant - An animal (they are all herbivores) that ‘chews the cud’. Examples are cattle, sheep and deer.


Bellwether - The sheep that leads the flock.

Broken mouth - A sheep (generally around 6 years old) which has broken or lost some of its incisor teeth.

Cast/cull ewes - Sheep that have reached the end of their working/productive life on the farm.

Draft ewes - Four or five-year-old hill ewes that are sold from hill farms to breed further on lower lying farms, usually used to breed pure on the hill farm and crossed for lowland breeding lamb production in life.

Ear tag - A plastic or metal tag which is clipped permanently in the sheep’s ear. This carries an electronic chip or ID text.

Ewe - A mature female sheep which has given birth.

Fat/prime lambs - Lamb bred for their tender meat.

Gelt - An adult ewe that is not in lamb when others are. Usually she has been kept away from the ram due to problems that occurred at a previous lambing. Gelts are usually fattened and sold for meat at a time when lamb is scarce

Gimmer - A female sheep that has been weaned but not yet sheared. Usually around 6 months to 15 months old.

Hefting - The instinct of certain breeds (especially hill breeds) to remain in a small area (the heft) without the need for fences.

Hefted sheep - A traditional method of managing flocks of sheep on large areas of common land and communal grazing, which the ewe learns and passes on to its lambs.

Hogg/hogget - The name for a young sheep between the January after its birth and its first two teeth (usually at 18 months). Also known as a shearling or teg.

North of England Mule - Mule is a cross-bred sheep sired by the Bluefaced Leicester ram with either a Swaledale or Northumberland type Blackface dam. The North of England Mule is by far the most prevalent in these parts.

Outfit - Term used for ewes with lambs at foot, which are sold per outfit.

Over-wintering - When sheep are sent from upland areas of Britain to warmer lowland areas where feed is more easily available over the winter.

Radding- 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

Rigwelted, rigged or kessen - An overturned sheep. Usually when heavily pregnant and broad backed. She may roll over and become unable to right herself.

Shearling - A young sheep between its first and second shearings (when the fleece is removed). Sheep are normally sheared once a year.

Teaser - A ram that has been vasectomised to make him infertile.

Tup - A male sheep. Another word for ‘ram’.

Wether - A castrated male sheep.

Store sheep - Animals bred for meat production. Meat lambs which are not classified as ‘fat’.


Bobby calf - Usually a male calf born to a dairy cow.

Bull - A sexually mature male that hasn’t been castrated and is used primarily for breeding.

Bullocks - Male cattle which have been castrated. The effects of castration are to make the cattle grow more quickly and to stop them reproducing.

Calf - Cattle (male or female) that are less than a year old.

Dam - The mother of a calf.

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.

Heifer - A young female cow. A maiden heifer has not yet had a calf or is in lactation following the first calving.

Prime cattle - Younger cattle (sold under 30 months of age at Skipton) tend to be graded as prime while older cattle are more likely to be graded commercial.

Springer - A cow or heifer that is close to calving.

Steer - Also known as a bullock.

Stirk - A yearling bullock or heifer.

Store cattle - Growing animals usually up to 2 years old that are bought and then finished for meat production. Cattle which are not classified as ‘fat’.

Suckler cow - The mother of a calf raised for beef production.


Porker - A finished pig sold for pork. The youngest grade of adult pigmeat.

Baconer - A finished pig sold for bacon. Older and larger than a porker.

Barrow - A castrated male pig.

Boar - An intact (not castrated) male swine.

Farrow - When a mother sow gives birth to piglets.

Gilt - A female pig under a year old that has not had a litter of piglets.

Hog - A domesticated pig.

Piglet - A young pig.

Sow - A female pig that has had piglets.

Swine - A broad term for pigs.