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Understanding Farm Animals Begins With a Name

Terms from the field. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Today we harvest some words. We are going to explain some commonly used terms for plants and farm animals. If you miss any, or if you want to test yourself, you can find a transcript and MP3 of our program at So here we go.

Some plants are annuals. Annuals live only one year or one growing season -- unlike perennials. Perennials last for more than two years. This term is used especially for plants like herbs that produce new growth year after year from the same root structure.

People eat herbs, and so do cattle. Among cattle, a bull is a male cow that has not been castrated. A male is called a steer if it had its reproductive organs removed as a calf. A calf is a young cow. A young female cow, especially one that has not yet had a calf, is called a heifer: H-E-I-F-E-R.

Cows are like all mammals: they produce milk for their young. This is called lactating. Cows lactate for up to ten months. A dry cow is a cow that is not producing milk.

Milk may be homogenized. Homogenization is a process that reduces the size of the fat particles and mixes the fat all through the milk. Otherwise, the fat will collect at the top, which is how some people like it.

Some people like products made from sheep's milk. The milk comes from a ewe -- spelled E-W-E. A ewe is a female sheep of any age. Ewes produce lambs. A lamb is a sheep under a year old. Male sheep of any age are called rams.

Sheep are known for their thick coat of fleece. That is, unless they have been sheared. Shearing is when a sheep gets a haircut so the fleece can be made into wool.

Sheep are also valued for their meat. Meat from a sheep that is more than a year old is called mutton.

Mutton was a traditional favorite of the British. Now speaking of the British, they call a castrated male pig a hog. But hog is a term commonly used for any swine, especially a domesticated adult pig. A sexually mature male is called a boar. And an adult female is a sow. She gives birth to litters of piglets.

A male horse is a gelding if it was castrated and a stallion if it was not. A young horse is a foal. Foals are born to a mare, a sexually mature female. A mare is generally defined as three years or older. A female horse under three is a filly. And a male under four is a colt.

So that is our lesson. And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.