Dairy Dictionary

– A –

  • Antibiotic: Medication that kills or slows the growth of harmful bacteria. Sometimes it’s necessary for farmers to treat cows with antibiotics when they are ill, just as humans sometimes need medication when they are sick. Cows that are treated with an antibiotic are milked separately from the healthy herd. All milk is tested to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply.

– B –

  • Biotechnology: A technology based on biology that is used for agricultural, food science or medicinal purposes. In agriculture, the process involves creating or modifying DNA to impart beneficial genetic traits.

  • Bulk Tank: A refrigerated, stainless steel storage tank located at the dairy, designed to hold milk as soon as it leaves the cow. The milk is cooled immediately in the bulk tank, usually to 35-39 degrees F. The milk is then collected by a bulk tank truck and shipped to a processing plant.

  • Bull: An adult male dairy animal. Young male dairy animals are known as bull calves.

– C –

  • Calf: A young female dairy animal before she has matured. A young male is called a bull calf.

  • Casein: The dominant protein (80 percent) in cow’s milk. Casein is vital to cheesemaking, and has a variety of uses in manufacturing as well.

  • Colostrum: The first milk given by a dairy cow following birth that is rich in fat and protein and has immunity elements. Colostrum is given to newborn calves in the first 24 hours of life.

  • Compost: Soil amendment and fertilizer made with biodegraded animal residuals, leaves, sawdust, grass clippings, soil and/or water.

  • Cream: Milk is separated by large machines in bulk. Cream is the high-fat milk product separated from milk. The cream is processed and used to produce various products with varying names, such as “heavy cream” or “whipping cream.” Cream contains at least 18% milk fat. Some cream is dried and powdered and some is condensed by evaporation and canned.

  • Cud: The partially digested food that is regurgitated from the first compartment of the cow’s stomach into the mouth to be chewed again. A cow may spend seven hours a day consuming food and an additional 10 hours a day chewing her cud.

  • Curd: The clumps of protein and other milk components that are formed during the cheese making process. Curds are pressed into blocks or barrels for proper aging and curing of the cheese

– E –213_03008 TMK Rudy Superfreak RAngle copy

  • Ear Tag: A device dairy farmers place in the ears of their animals to identify each individual animal in the herd. Ear tags contain a number that is given to that particular cow and allows for the dairy farmer to maintain accurate health and milk production records.

– F –

  • Forage: Cow feed that is high in fiber and low in digestible nutrients. Examples include whole plants of corn, small grains (such as oats, barley, or wheat), legumes and grasses.

– G –

  • Guernsey: A small, cream-and-brown breed of dairy cattle that produces more milk per unit of body weight than any other breed. Guernseys are renowned for the high butterfat content of their milk.

– H –

  • Hay: Dried feed such as rye, alfalfa, clover, grass and oats, which is used as a food source for dairy cows. A hay pasture is mowed and the trimmings dry in the sun for two to three days. The hay is then gathered by a piece of farm machinery called a baler that processes it into varying sizes of bales, which can be rectangular or round.

  • Heifer: A female dairy animal that has yet to give birth to a calf.

  • Herd: A grouping of cows on a dairy farm. Cows are often placed into herds with other cows of their age or milking status such as dry cows and heifers.

  • Holstein: A black and white dairy cow (though there are some “Red Holsteins”) that is the most predominant breed of dairy cattle worldwide. The Holstein originated in the province of Friesland, The Netherlands. They are known for having the highest milk production of all of the breeds of dairy cattle.

  • Homogenization: A process applied to milk that results in fat globules being reduced in size to allow a smooth consistency.

– I –

  • Irrigation: The replacement or supplementation of rainfall with water from another source in order to grow crops. Irrigation sources include a nearby or distant body of water such as a river, spring, lake, aquifer, well or snowpack. The water can be directly channeled to the fields or stored in a reservoir for later use.

– J –Cows1_TMK

  • Jersey: A breed of dairy cattle that is renowned for the high butterfat content of its milk. Jersey cows are smaller than other breeds (800 to 1,200 pounds) and are known for their big eyes, honey-brown color and docile natures.

– M –

  • Methane Digester: Technology that converts cow manure into methane gas that is burned as fuel to generate electricity.

  • Milking Machines: Machinery used by dairy farmers to extract milk from cows. Electronic milking machines use a pulsating vacuum that simulates the effect of a suckling calf. The machines do not cause any harm or discomfort to the cows and they keep the milk safe from external contamination.

  • Milking Parlor: A specialized area on the dairy farm where the milking process is performed. Cows are brought into the parlor two or three times a day. Parlors come in many types and names, including flat barn, herringbone, parallel, swing, walk-through and rotary.

– P –

  • Pasteurization: Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill harmful pathogens through heat treatment without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. Since its introduction over a century ago, pasteurization has been recognized around the world as an essential tool for protecting public health. The process was named after its inventor, French scientist Louis Pasteur.

  • Pasture: Land at a dairy farm that is lush with vegetation cover such as grasses or legumes and is used for grazing dairy cows.


  • Processing Plant: A facility that pasteurizes, homogenizes and packages milk that comes directly from dairy farms. Once the milk leaves the processing plant, it is available to the public through a variety of channels, including grocery stores, schools and restaurants.

– R –

  • Rumen: Cows have one stomach that is divided into four compartments, the largest being the rumen. The rumen allows cows to regurgitate forage and re-chew their cud for further digestion.

– S –

  • Silo: A storage facility on farms that is designed to store silage.

  • Skim Milk: The product left after the cream is removed from milk is called skim, skimmed or fat-free milk.

– T –

  • Teat: The appendage on a cow’s udder through which milk from the udder flows.  Dairy cows commonly have four teats.

– U –

  • Udder: The encased group of mammary glands on a dairy cow.

– V –

  • Veterinarian: Animal doctors who have earned a degree in veterinary medicine. Sometimes called “large animal veterinarians” or “livestock veterinarians,” many specialize in the treatment of dairy cows and work directly with dairy farmers at their farms to ensure healthy herds.

– W –

  • Whey: The watery part of milk that separates from the curds during the cheese-making process. The composition ofwhey varies considerably, depending on the milk source and the manufacturing process involved. Typically it is rich in lactose, minerals, vitamins and protein.

These common dairy words and their definitions come from the Dairy Dictionary at Dairy Farming Today.

April 04, 2018 0 comments WRITTEN BY Todd Koch