COUNTRYSIDE NOTES FARMERS’ DICTIONARY February 2018
If you happen to be in the company of farmers you might feel you need an interpreter for they speak a language of their own. For instance in the north a ewe is a yow and a mule is a cross- bred sheep. For the uninitiated I will attempt to interpret. There are probably more terms used by sheep farmers than in any other sector of the farming industry. A cade lamb is one that is hand reared. Between December and its first shearing a spring born lamb is known as a teg, hogg or hogget. For the following twelve months it is described as a shearling. Theaves, gimmers and chilvers are young female sheep while a wether is a mature castrated male. Rams are often called tups. Sheep that have damaged or missing teeth are known as broken mouthed and draft ewes are those sold off when they are no longer productive. A cast or couped sheep has rolled onto its back and can’t get up. Keep sheep are those kept on a temporary basis, usually ones taken off marshes and hills for the winter. A heft or heaf is an unfenced territory on open hillside naturally occupied by a specific group of sheep. When it comes to cattle a heifer is a term used to describe a young female until the time she gives birth to her second calf. A steer, bullock or stirk is a castrated male. A freemartin is a female that is born twinned with a male and is invariably infertile. A gilt is a young female pig and to farrow means to give birth. A colt is a male horse under four years old and a filly is a young female of a similar age. A gelding is a castrated male. The withers are the shoulders and a hand is a measurement of four inches. In general terms a hybrid is a mix of breeds, a store is an animal that requires fattening up and a cull is one to be disposed of. To flush means giving an animal additional feed to boost its condition and a lick is a solid nutritional or mineral block. If an animal is said to be served or covered it means it has been mated. It’s compulsory for all farm animals to be fitted with ear tags to identify not only the individual but also which herd or flock it belongs to, thus guaranteeing traceability. Freeze branding provides permanent identification by using liquid nitrogen to painlessly turn the hair white. Arable farmers talk about drilling which means sowing, headland which is the strip of ground around the perimeter of a crop and top dressing which is applying manure or fertilizer to the land. Silage is compressed and fermented fresh grass stored for winter feed. Commonly used abbreviations are CAP - Common Agricultural Policy (EU), FDM stands for Foot and Mouth Disease, AI for artificial insemination and POL for point of lay in poultry.