Farm Glossary

Farming in Canada can be full of a lot of confusing terminology and lingo. Even those working in the industry can get confused if, for example, they work in a greenhouse but don’t know anything about raising chickens. Here’s a glossary of terms that are commonly used in agriculture



  • Acre
    1 acre = 43,560 sq. ft. or 0.405 hectares


  • Agronomy
    Branch of agriculture that deals with field crop production and soil management. Agronomists generally work with crops that are grown on a large scale (e.g., small grains) and that require relatively little management.


  • Artificial Insemination
    The use of frozen semen from selected sires to breed animals. It allows farmers to use top genetics to improve each generation of new animals.


  • Avian Influenza (AI or Bird Flu)
    A virus that infects wild birds and domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese). Some forms of the flu in birds are worse than others.



  • Barrow
    A male pig that has been castrated.


  • Bedding
    Material such as straw, wood chips or sand used as a floor covering in barns for animal comfort.


  • Beneficial Insects
    Beneficial insects can be useful in integrated pest management of row crops and gardens. They are a form of biological control in that their activity reduces the activity of certain pest species.


  • Biological Control
    Controlling plants, diseases, and animal pests using natural enemies; or inhibiting the reproduction of pests by methods that result in the laying of infertile eggs, etc.


  • Biological Diversity
    Richness and abundance of species, and variety of natural communities. Both the number of species and the number of individuals within each species are important in considering the extent of biological diversity in an area. Also referred to as biodiversity.


  • Biosecurity
    A program to protect barns, animals and poultry from outside dirt and germs. Visitors are asked to wear clean clothes, wash their boots and even sometimes have a shower to ensure they don’t bring any germs into the facility.


  • Biostimulant
    Are substances or microorganisms whose function, when applied to plants or the rhizosphere (soil zone directly surrounding the roots), is to stimulate natural processes to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient use efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress and/or crop quality, independently of its nutrient content.


  • Biotechnology
    1) bio = life, technology = practical application of knowledge 2) the application of science and engineering in the direct and indirect use of living organisms, or parts or products of living organisms, in their natural or modified forms (e.g. using microorganisms to make wine or cheese)


  • Bird boomers
    One acoustical option is a propane-fired, bird-scaring cannon —also known as a bird banger — that emits cannon like sounds. Bird bangers are very effective for scaring birds away from field crops. Double-firing bird bangers were found to protect more than twice the area of a single-firing one. Today most bird bangers are triple-firing ones that are even more effective.


  • Boar
    Adult male pig.


  • Bovine
    Animals that are members of the cattle family.


  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
    Commonly known as “mad cow disease,” BSE is a slowly progressive, incurable disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle, first diagnosed in Britain in 1986. Consumption by cattle of BSE-contaminated ruminant proteins in animal feed has been cited as one possible means of transmission.


  • Break in the Growing Process (Mushroom)
    Mushrooms are generally harvested for 3 to 5 days, followed by several days when no mature mushrooms are present. The period between harvesting is used for watering the casing layer. This cycle is repeated in a rhythmic fashion for the duration of the crop and is also called a break or flush.


  • Broiler Chicken
    A meat chicken raised to the weight of 2.65 kg or under.


  • Brown Agaricus
    A type of mushroom that is brown and 2.4 inches in diameter. Also known as a common field mushroom.


  • Buck
    Male goat.


  • Buck
    Mature, male deer.


  • Buckling
    A young, male goat (teenager).


  • Buffer strip
    Helps prevent water contamination by filtering out soil, fertilizers and manure before they enter a stream.


  • Buffer Zone
    This is the naturalized area that farmers often leave next to a body of water such as a stream or pond. Buffer zones help to prevent water contamination by filtering out soil, fertilizers, and manure and other nutrients before they enter a stream. They also can reduce soil erosion, and promote biodiversity by providing shelter and food for a wide variety of animals, birds and fish.


  • Bulk Milk Tank
    A refrigerated stainless steel storage unit in which milk is cooled quickly to 1°C to 4°C (35° F to 39° F) and stored.


  • Bull
    A mature, male bovine.


  • Bushel
    A unit of volume that is used for measuring agricultural produce such as corn or beans. A bushel is equivalent in volume to eight gallons.



  • Calf
    A newborn bovine.


  • Calf hutches
    The white, domed, igloo-like structures that some farmers use as individual housing units for dairy calves.


  • Candling
    A process where the egg is passed over a strong light to make the interior of the egg visible. This allows the grader to see the condition of the shell, the size of the air cell and whether the yolk is well-centered.


  • Cervids
    Elk and deer are both Cervids, which means they are members of the Cervidae (or deer) family.


  • Chevon
    Meat that comes from adult goats.


  • Chick
    The term for a baby chicken (male or female) until it is about three weeks of age.


  • Cockerel
    A young male chicken.


  • Coco coir
    A by product of coconut production. It is coconut fiber that gets shredded up and has really good drainage perfect for growing a high quality crop.


  • Colostrum
    The first milk that any animal (including humans) produce after they give birth. This milk helps to pass along the mother’s immunity to disease to her offspring.


  • Conservation or no tillage farming
    In conservation tillage, crops are grown with minimal or no cultivation of the soil. Any organic matter remaining from a previous year´s crop is left on the soil, building up its organic matter. In addition, populations of beneficial insects are maintained, soil and nutrients are less likely to be lost from the field and less time, labour and fuel are required to prepare the field for planting, thus reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Contour Farming
    Field operations such as plowing, planting, cultivating, and harvesting on the contour, or at right angles to the natural slope to reduce soil erosion, protect soil fertility, and use water more efficiently.


  • Corn
    Corn is a crop that is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. It is usually used in one of two ways:
    • Corn Silage: The whole plant is harvested while it is still green and is stored in a silo. After the silage is stored in the silo, the wet corn undergoes fermentation, or pickling. In this process, the corn is changed by a bacterial process to make it tastier and easier to digest by the cows. When the silage comes out of the silo it is more palatable. The same process turns wet hay into haylage.
    • Grain Corn: Only the kernels from the plant are harvested and are stored in a dry form. Grain corn is usually ground up and mixed with any barley or oats, a protein food like soybean meal, plus vitamins and minerals.


  • Cow
    A mature, female bovine.


  • Cow/calf farm
    Beef cows and calves typically live on pasture in spring, summer and fall on farms called cow/calf farms where they eat a diet of mostly grasses.


  • Crop Rotation
    Farmers use crop rotation to improve soil health and control pests. For example, the roots of a grain crop like wheat are similar to the grass in your lawn while the roots of corn tend to me more like a carrot, or tap root. Planting different crops each year also help keep insects and weeds from building up as different crops are appealing to different pests.


  • Cucumeris
    Neoseiulus cucumeris, the cucumeris mite, is a species of predatory mite in the family Phytoseiidae. It is used in biological pest control of western flower thrips in cucumber and some other greenhouse crops.



  • Doe
    Female goat.


  • Doe
    Mature, female deer.


  • Doeling
    A young, female goat (teenager).


  • Drinkers
    Automated water lines in barns for animals or poultry to drink from.


  • Dry Cow
    A cow that is waiting to give birth and who is not producing milk.



  • E. coli 0157:H7 (Escherichia Coli 0157:H7)
    A bacterium that lives harmlessly in the intestines of animals such as cattle. However, in humans the bacterium, which can be transmitted through foods, can cause bloody diarrhea, and also lead to a life threatening disease. Although other known strains of E. coli are thought to be harmless to humans, the 0157:H7 strain is particularly virulent and dangerous.


  • Emu
    The emu is the second largest member of the ratite family, by height, next to the Ostrich and is the largest bird native to Australia.


  • Ewe
    A female sheep that has had a lamb.


  • Ewe lamb
    A female sheep that has not yet given birth to a lamb.



  • Fallacis
    Fallacis is an extremely effective spider mite predator and preventer. Usually one application is enough to achieve multi-year spider mite control.


  • Farmers Market
    A market where producers, generally farmers, sell their goods directly to consumers.


  • Farrow
    The term used when a pig gives birth.


  • Fawn
    A young deer.


  • Feed
    Commercially prepared food for animals made from grain, fortified with vitamins and minerals to optimize animal nutrition.


  • Feeder Pig
    Piglet after it is weaned from the sow (its mother). They are also known as “weaner” pigs.


  • Feeders
    Automated feed machines which dispense chicken feed (they allow the birds 24-hour access to feed).


  • Feedlot
    Cattle being raised for market are moved to feedlots (penned yards) from the open range and pastures for the final months before marketing. They’re fed a high-energy diet of grains, corn or hay silage or hay. The consistent, high quality feed brings them to market weight faster then on grass alone.


  • Fertilizer
    Any natural or synthetic material added to soil to supply plants with essential nutrients.


  • Fleece
    A sheep’s wool after it has been shorn off, in one piece.


  • Flock
    A group of chickens raised by a farmer.


  • Flock
    A group of sheep.


  • Flush
    A crop or harvest of mushrooms.


  • Foot-and-mouth Disease (FMD)
    A major disease of cloven-footed animals (e.g., cattle and pigs).


  • Free Stall dairy barn
    In this type of barn, dairy cows are housed in large group pens or individual stalls. They get milked by walking to a milking parlour or a milking robot.



  • Genetic Engineering
    Use of specific laboratory techniques to introduce gene(s) from one species into the genome of another.


  • Genetic Modification
    Changing the genetic traits of an organism by intentional manipulations or modifications either through traditional plant breeding or genetic engineering.


  • Genetically Modified Organism
    A product of genetic modification, however often used in the media to describe a product of genetic engineering specifically.


  • Gestation
    Length of pregnancy.


  • Gilt
    A female pig that has never farrowed (given birth).


  • Greenhouse
    A greenhouse is a structure that allows people to regulate climatic conditions, such as temperature and humidity.


  • Green Manure
    A crop planted with the intention of turning it under for use as organic matter.


  • Groundwater
    Water within the earth that supplies wells and springs.



    Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). This is a quality assurance program that identifies risk factors (critical points) to reduce them to an absolute minimum.


  • Hay
    A mixture of grass and legumes, like alfalfa. It is most commonly used in two ways: Haylage: the hay is cut, chopped and stored in a loose way in a storage silo, while it is still moist. Hay: usually cut after haylage when the plants are taller, it is allowed to dry in the field. It is then baled into round or square bales and stored under cover.


  • Hectare (ha)
    A metric measure of area equal to 10,000 square meters. One hectare=2.47 acres.


  • Heifer
    A young female bovine that has not yet had a calf.


  • Herbicide
    Any pesticide used to destroy or inhibit plant growth; a weed killer.


  • Holstein
    The black and white breed of dairy cows, most commonly seen on dairy farms in Canada.


  • Hybrid
    Plants produced by crossing two or more inbred lines of plants that are genetically quite different.



  • Insecticide
    A pesticide used to kill, deter, or control insects.


  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
    A system of managing pests (weeds, insects, disease, fungus, nematodes, rodents) that involves more than one control method – mechanical (e.g. tillage), cultural (e.g. using certified seed), biological (e.g. use of a pest’s natural enemies), or chemical (e.g. pesticides) – in a program that is both economically and environmentally sound. Prevention is the key to IPM and farmers work hard to identify which pests may cause problems in their fields, and which are harmless.


  • Irrigation
    Applying water (or wastewater) to land areas to supply water to the plants.



  • Kid
    A newborn goat.



  • Lactation
    The secretion of milk by the mammary glands. Animals only produce milk only after they have given birth.


  • Lamb
    A sheep under one year of age.


  • Layer farm
    This is where laying hens are housed. Hens lay eggs for 52 to 60 weeks. During this time they will produce about 300 eggs.


  • Laying hen
    The term used to describe a hen after she starts laying eggs at 18-20 weeks of age.


  • Litter
    A group of piglets born at one time from the same sow.



  • Manure
    The original fertilizer. When used correctly, it builds organic matter, which helps hold water and nutrients in the soil. Manure contains three major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and also adds valuable organic matter to the soil.


  • Marginal land
    Land that is too hilly, wet, or contains soils that are fragile and of lower quality for crop production.


  • Market Hog
    Either a barrow (neutered male pig) or gilt (female pig that hasn’t given birth) that is raised for meat production.


  • Micro-climate
    Microclimate of plant is the condition at around plant , from the depth root zone to he highest upper canopy.


  • Mutton
    Meat from mature sheep (not lambs)


  • Mycellium
    The mass of branched fibers comprising the vegetative part of a fungus. The substance can be used to grow strong and compostable material in different shapes.



  • N, P, K
    Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium; the three major nutrients in manure.


  • Nutrient
    Any chemical element or compound essential to the growth and development of an organism.


  • Nutrient Management
    A plan designed specifically for an individual farm by each farmer that helps them determine how much manure they can use on their land – it tells them the right amount of fertilizer plants need in order to grow a healthy and plentiful crop in an environmentally-friendly way.


  • Nutrient Management
    The practice of applying fertilizers and plant nutrients such as manures in a time and manner to best ensure they will be taken up by growing plants and not leach into the groundwater or wash away.



  • Organic Matter
    Dead plant or animal material (like manure) found in soil.


  • Ostrich
    The Ostrich is the largest member of the “ratite” family and the largest living species of bird in the world. Ostrich are native to Africa.



  • Pesticides
    Used to destroy pests. Fungicides (destroys fungus), herbicides (destroys plants), insecticides (destroys insects), and nematicides (destroys nematodes) are all pesticides.


  • Peat Moss
    Is used widely in the production of mushroom casing layers, substrate fillers, and acts as a moisture retainer and aerator.


  • Persimilis
    Phytoseiulus persimilis is a predatory mite native to Chile commonly used for the control of two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) in fruit, ornamental, and vegetable crops.


  • Piglet
    A newborn pig.


  • Polled
    Breeds of goats or cattle that are naturally born without horns.


  • Poults
    From the time they hatch until they’re 14 days old, young turkeys are called ‘poults’. They’re covered with a soft yellow “down” and make a peeping sound.


  • Pullet
    A young female chicken.


  • Pullet farm
    Egg farmers either raise their own pullets or buy them from pullet farms. Within 24 hours of being hatched, chicks are transported to pullet farms where they are raised until they are old enough to lay eggs. At 18 to 20 weeks of age, pullets are transported to layer farms and are then referred to as laying hens.



  • Ratite
    Any member of the group of flightless birds like ostrich, emu or rheas that have a flat breastbone without the keel-like prominence characteristic of most flying birds. This means that they lack a strong anchor for their wing muscles and could not fly even if they did develop suitable wings. The name ratite comes from the Latin word for raft (ratis), because their breastbone looks like a raft.


  • Rhea
    The Rhea is another member of the ratite family, native to South America. These flightless birds are smaller than the Ostrich and the Emu.


  • Riparian
    Pertaining to the area along the banks of a river, stream, or lake.


  • Roaster Chicken
    A larger meat chicken raised to the weight of over 2.65 kg.


  • Rotation (Grain Farming)
    Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.


  • Ruminant
    A four-stomached animal like cattle, sheep, goats, deer or bison.


  • Rut
    Breeding season for deer. It usually starts in September and lasts until early November.



  • Silo
    Silos are extremely useful to store a wide variety of livestock feeds, including silage. A silo can be vertical (like a tower) or horizontal (called a bunker).


  • Slatted floors
    A barn floor with open spaces to allow manure and other material to pass through. This keeps the barn cleaner for the animals to live in.


  • Snood
    The snood is the fleshy growth that hangs down over the beak of a turkey.


  • Soil Type
    The texture of the soil. This is based on the percentage of sand, silt, and clay. As examples, sandy soils drain water quickly while clay soils hold water and often require tile drainage.


  • Sow
    An adult female pig that has given birth.


  • Spawn 
    A mushroom spawn is used to start the process to grow mushrooms. Much like a gardener uses seeds, a mushroom farmer uses the genetic material of a mushroom.


  • Spotted wing drosophila
    Drosophila suzukii, commonly called the spotted wing drosophila or SWD, is a fruit fly. D. suzukii, originally from southeast Asia, is becoming a major pest species in America and Europe, because it infests fruit early during the ripening stage


  • Steer
    A castrated, male bovine.


  • Substrate
    The material used to help mushrooms grow. A substrate may serve as a food source for an organism, or provide support. Examples include; straw, cardboard, logs, and woodchips.


  • Supply Management
    The system under which the Canadian chicken, egg, turkey and dairy industries operate. This quota system ensures that farmers of these types of animal and poultry produce the amount of product needed for Canadian consumers. Supply management balances supply with demand and prevents overproduction, flooded markets and depressed prices for farmers. It allows these industries to remain sustainable and profitable for farmers.



  • Tabletop strawberry
    Plants are grown in troughs which sit in a gutter that is raised several feet off the ground, about waist height, which is where it gets the nickname “tabletop”.


  • Technology 
    Farmers use a wide variety of technology for grain farming. GPS systems for planting, spraying, and harvesting are used to collect data for yield purposes. It is also used to collect data on the soil conditions in the field. This can help determine what the next steps are for the producer.


  • Tie Stall dairy barn
    In this type of barn, dairy cows are tied in stalls next to each other. They have constant access to water and are fed in a manger in front of them. The cows are milked in their stall.


  • Tile Drainage
    Porous drain pipe is buried 0.75 to 1 metre down in the soil of a field allowing water to move to the pipe and drain away quickly. This allows farmers to begin working in their fields earlier in the spring because the excess water is drained away, and yields are increased.


  • Tilling / Tillage
    Ploughing, cultivating or otherwise working up soil to prepare it for planting.


  • Tilth
    A term referring to the physical condition of the soil in respect to its suitability for planting crops. Factors used to determine tilth include aeration, moisture content, aggregation of soil particles, drainage and water infiltration.


  • Tom Turkey
    Adult, male turkeys. They can weigh between eight and 20 kg and have a wing span of up to 1.5 metres. It is only Tom turkeys that make the famous “gobble gobble” sound.


  • Transponder tag
    A tag with a computer chip that identifies an animal and transmits information about its feed intake or milk output to the farm’s computer (for statistical purposes).



  • Udder
    The udder is the mammary organ that secretes the animal’s milk. A cow’s udder has four teats. A goat’s udder has two teats.



  • Ventilation
    Ventilation is extremely important in barns as animals and poultry need to have access to fresh air year-round. There are several types of ventilation systems that are adaptable to the change in seasons.


  • Veterinarian
    A doctor for animals and poultry.



  • Watershed
    An area of land that collects and discharges water into a single stream or other outlet. Also called a catchment or drainage basin.


  • Wattle
    The reddish-pink flesh-like covering on the throat and neck of a turkey. It helps to release extra body heat.


  • Weaned
    This term is used to describe the stage when animals are taken off their mother’s milk and fed solid foods, like grasses.


  • Wether
    A neutered male sheep.