A Cattlemen’s Glossary

Like any profession, raising cattle comes with a unique set of words and phrases that are difficult to understand by the lay person. However over the Christmas holiday, we realized this jargon was creeping into our daily talk, so much that my wife’s urban siblings gave us several clueless looks. To help folks understand what we mean by these things, below is a handy reference glossary to interpret what your cattle raising friend is trying to say.

Cow with head through fence

And at the end there will be a quiz, proctored by this cow.

“Off Feed”: when cattle get sick the first thing they usually do is stop eating. Being “off feed” means somebody is not feeling too well. Example- That three pounds of Christmas cookies I ate really put me off feed.

“Out to pasture”: An old horse that is too geriatric to ride any more gets to spend the rest of its days sitting in a pasture. Being “put out to pasture” is synonymous with retirement. Example– I thought the minister at grandpa’s church had finally been put out to pasture, but then someone told me he was just off feed. 

“Gummer” or “Broken mouth”: Cows’ front teeth wear out slowly over the years. This leads to nothing but a few small teeth that look broken (but they aren’t, they’re just wore down) and lots of gum showing. That means a “gummer” cow or “broken mouth” cow is a really old cow. Example- That ol’ gummer Lou Holtz is still talking football on Sirus radio? I thought they’d put that broken mouth out to pasture by now!

“High sided”: A beef animal that has a rumen bloat will have one side of his back higher than the other due to the gas in his stomach. It is a common medical condition I have to deal with at the clinic. Example- Dad was a tad high sided after eating the entire pumpkin pie Christmas Eve. 

“BCS”: Short for “body condition score” which is a system that cattlemen use to determine if a cow is in the correct physical condition. On a 1 to 9 scale, with 1 being extremely thin and 9 being obese. Example- That runway model could use a BCS or two, otherwise winter is going to be pretty rough on her.

“Fancy”: An adjective describing high-quality livestock. Example- Move over Iggy Azalea, these heifers are super fancy!

“Bulling”: When heifers are in the part of their cycle that where they are fertile, they will exhibit riding behaviors similar to the actions of bulls. The fertile one will stand to be mounted. Example- If my neighbor’s dog comes into my yard bulling one more time, I’m going to neuter it myself. 

“Boss cow”: The cow that is the leader of the herd. Often fights her way to this position. Example- Dan makes sure everyone knows he’s the boss cow of the Glee Club. Its about time we put him out to pasture. 

“Fleshy”: A cow that is carrying extra weight. Example: One who gets a bit high-sided during the holidays will be a bit fleshy in the new year. 

“High-headed”: A wild, untrustworthy cow. They often hold their heads up higher in the air than the tame cows, constantly scanning the area. Example- Dan’s probably made himself boss cow  of the Glee Club because he’s so high-headed nobody will challenge him. I hope he sings so hard he goes off feed. 

While this glossary is not all-inclusive, it will give you a good start to understanding your cattle raising friends and relatives at your upcoming New Year’s Eve party. Party responsibly, so you’re not off feed New Year’s Day.





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