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What Is the Difference Between a Heifer & a Stocker Cow?

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An assortment of terminology serves to describe animals according to use and reproductive status within the cattle industry. While terms such as heifer and stocker cow may not make sense to individuals who are just entering the cattle industry, they designate specific information about the animals in question, including value.


Heifers are female cows, specifically female cows who have not yet produced a calf. The values in a heifer is her ability to produce milk as well as being able to breed her to create more cattle.

Stocker Cow

A stocker cow can be male or female. Stocker cattle are generally fed and maintained until they have reached a desirable weight to be sold for beef production. Clemson University reports that the term stocker cattle originated in the mountains and was used to describe animals who were purchased during the spring months and turned loose to graze and gain weight in mountain pastures until they were ready for slaughter.

Stocker vs. Heifer

All cattle can be stockers. Gender does not matter when a farmer is selecting stocker cattle, though bulls are generally considered to be undesirable because of increased aggression and the tendency to mate with any females, producing unwanted or unintentional calves. A heifer can be used as a stocker; however, not just any stocker cow can be considered a heifer, because a heifer has to meet specific qualifications.

Cattle Terminology

In addition to heifers and stockers, cattle can be referred to and classified by an assortment of terms. "Cow" may refer to any female of any age but is usually used for female cows who have already produced calves. The heifer's a female in her maturity who's never birthed a calf. A calf is just a baby, male or female, who has not yet reached maturity. A steer is a male cattle who have been castrated, suited for beef production. A bull is an intact males who have not been castrated. Bulls, steers, cows and heifers can all be stocker cattle.