Cattle Terminology & Life Stages (Bull, Ox, Cow, Heifer)

Cattle terminology refers to the various terms and names used to describe the domesticated mammals of the Bovidae family, commonly known as cattle.

Cattle husbandry dates back to ancient times, with evidence of domesticated cattle found in numerous civilizations, including the Egyptians and the Indus Valley Civilization. These civilizations utilized cattle for a variety of purposes, including as sources of food, labour, and wealth.

In many cultures, cattle were held in high esteem and considered symbols of wealth and status. As such, they were often depicted in art and played an important role in religious and cultural practices.

Throughout history, the art and science of caring for and managing cattle have evolved, with the development of various techniques and practices aimed at improving the health, productivity, and overall well-being of these animals. Today, cattle husbandry remains an important aspect of modern agriculture, with the beef and dairy industries relying on the effective and efficient management of cattle to meet the demands of consumers.

Cattle Terminalogies

Cattle are raised for meat, dairy products, leather, and as draft animals. Some common cattle terminologies include:

  • Cow
  • Bull
  • Ox
  • Heifer
  • Weaver
  • Feeders
  • Steer
  • Calf
  • Beef Cattle
  • Dairy Cattle

Over time, various terms have developed to describe different types of cattle and the stages of their lives. Understanding these terms is essential for anyone involved in the cattle industry, from farmers to livestock traders and beyond.



A mature female bovine that has given birth to at least one calf. Cows are often kept for their milk, which is used for dairy products but can also be raised for beef or for their hides, which are used for leather products.



Two Bull Cattles standing in a field on a warm summer day. Credit: Texas Longhorns

A mature male bovine that has not been castrated. Bulls are often used for breeding purposes to produce offspring, but can also be raised for meat or as working animals, such as oxen.



Ox working on a field in india

A mature male bovine that has been castrated, making them suitable for use as a draft animal. Oxen have been used for centuries to plough fields, transport goods, and even pull wagons in some cultures.



Photo showing a Halfer cow on a meadow.

A young female bovine that has not yet given birth to her first calf. Heifers are often raised for their meat or dairy products and are used for breeding once they reach maturity.


Weaner calf

Weaner calf in stable.

A calf that has been separated from its mother and is no longer being fed milk, but is instead being fed solid food to prepare them for life as an adult.


Modern farm cowshed with feeders eating hay. Agriculture industry and farming concept.

Modern farm cowshed with feeders eating hay. Agriculture industry and farming concept.

A type of cattle that is typically younger and smaller, and is raised specifically for meat production. Feeders are often fed a diet designed to promote rapid growth and weight gain and are typically sold for slaughter once they reach a certain weight.


Steer cattles grazing in the field at sunset, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Steer cattles grazing in the field at sunset, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

A male bovine that has been castrated before reaching sexual maturity, making them unsuitable for breeding purposes. Steers are often raised for their meat and are known for producing tender and flavorful cuts of beef.


Young calf suckling cow's udder

Young calf suckling cow’s udder

A young bovine of either sex, typically under a year old and still nursing from its mother. Calves are an important source of milk for dairy cattle and are also raised for beef or used as working animals.

Beef Cattle

Herd of beef cattles walking out the cowshed and going on pasture to graze.

A type of cattle that is raised specifically for meat production, as opposed to dairy cattle, which are raised for milk production. Beef cattle are typically larger and have more muscle mass than dairy cattle, making them well-suited for meat production.

Dairy Cattle

Solid dairy cattle grazing standing black white dairy in a field, with a large udder fully in focus.

Solid dairy cattle grazing standing black white dairy in a field, with a large udder fully in focus.

A type of cattle that is raised specifically for milk production. Dairy cattle are typically smaller and have a higher proportion of body fat than beef cattle, which allows them to produce large quantities of milk. Dairy cattle are often kept in specialized facilities and are milked several times a day to maintain their milk production.

In conclusion, cattle terminologies are a crucial aspect of the cattle industry, and a good understanding of these terms is essential for anyone involved in the business. Whether you’re a farmer, a livestock trader, or simply someone who enjoys eating beef or dairy products, understanding the different types of cattle and their uses will help you to better appreciate the important role that these animals play in our world.

Stages & Life Cycle Of A Cattle

Throughout their life cycle, cattle go through several distinct stages which are important for their growth, development, and productivity. Here, we will take a closer look at these stages and what they entail.


The first stage in the life cycle of cattle is that of the calf. A calf is a young bovine that has been recently born and is still nursing from its mother. At birth, a calf weighs around 60 to 120 pounds and has limited mobility, relying mostly on its mother for nourishment and protection. As the calf grows and develops, it will begin to eat solid food and eventually wean off its mother’s milk.


Once the calf has weaned from its mother’s milk, it is referred to as a weaner. This stage usually occurs at around 6 to 8 months of age and marks the end of the calf’s dependence on its mother. Weaners are typically kept separate from the other cattle and fed a special diet designed to promote their growth and development.


After the weaner stage, the next stage is that of the feeder. Feeders are cattle that have been specifically raised to be fattened up for the market. They are usually housed in feedlots and fed a high-calorie diet to increase their weight as quickly as possible. This stage usually lasts for 6 to 12 months and can involve significant weight gain, with some feeders increasing their weight by several hundred pounds.


A yearling is a young bovine that is between 1 and 2 years of age. At this stage, the cattle have reached a significant size and weight and are ready for the next phase of their development. Yearlings are usually fed a diet that is designed to help them maintain their weight while they continue to grow.

The life cycle of a cattle begins at birth when a newborn calf enters the world weighing anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds. In the first few months of its life, the calf will depend on its mother for sustenance, nursing on her milk for nourishment and growth. This period is critical for the calf’s survival, as it lays the foundation for its future health and productivity.

After weaning, which typically occurs between six and eight months of age, the calf enters the growing phase of its life cycle. During this time, it is fed a diet of hay, grain, and other supplements to support its growth and development. The calf will continue to grow rapidly, reaching approximately 90% of its mature weight by the time it is 18 to 20 months old.

Once the calf reaches maturity, it enters the breeding phase of its life cycle, during which it is typically paired with a bull for mating. The gestation period for cattle is approximately 280 days, after which the female will give birth to a new calf, starting the cycle all over again.

Throughout the course of its life, a cattle will also face various challenges and diseases, which can impact its health and productivity. It is important for cattle farmers to monitor the health of their herd, providing veterinary care as needed and implementing preventative measures to minimize the impact of diseases and other health issues.

As the cattle approaches the end of its life, it is typically culled from the herd and sent to the meatpacking industry for processing into beef. The length of a cattle’s life will vary based on several factors, including genetics, nutrition, and overall health, but it is not uncommon for cattle to live for 10 to 20 years.

Overall, the life cycle of cattle is complex and multifaceted, encompassing birth, growth, reproduction, and eventual death. Through careful management and attention to its needs, cattle farmers can ensure that their herd remains healthy, productive, and profitable for many years to come.


In conclusion, cattle play an important role in human society and are used for various purposes such as dairy production, meat production, and as draft animals. The life cycle of cattle starts from birth and ends with its use for various purposes, and cattle husbandry has been a part of human history for thousands of years.