A wide assortment of terminology is used within the cattle industry to describe certain characteristics of specific animals. The larger and more professional a cattle operation is, the more likely it is that you will hear terms such as steer, heifer, calf, stocker or sire. These terms are used to quickly label animals by their gender, age and purpose in the operation.
A bull is a male cow who has not been castrated. When a bull is castrated he becomes a steer, which is the word used for castrated male cattle who are unable to reproduce. Female cows are either cows or heifers, depending on their age and breeding status. Heifers are typically young cows who have yet to produce a calf. Calves are baby cattle and can be either male or female.
A bull used for breeding purposes may be referred to as a sire. The term "sire" is breeding-specific, as a male who fathers a calf is referred to as the sire of the calf. Bulls who have not fathered any calves will not be considered sires because they have not yet sired offspring.
If your cattle are purebred and come with registration paperwork, then the sire and his lineage will be listed on the papers. The purpose of recording bloodlines and lineage is to document how the animal is bred and help make it easier to determine what inherited qualities the offspring may possess. The sire of your animal will always be listed on his registration papers.
Cattle breeders purposely choose the best bulls possible to sire their calves. Sires are chosen for specific physical attributes and benefits they may pass on to their offspring. Some bulls are specifically marketed and promoted for their ability to sire high-quality offspring. The amount of money that is charged for breeding cows to top-grade sires will increase or decrease depending on the quality of the sire and any offspring he has produced.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.