Livestock - Key Terms and Welfare



  • Piglet = a young pig
  • Weaner = a piglet weaned from the sow
  • Gilt = female pig that has never been pregnant but will be used for breeding
  • Sow = female pig having had one or more litters
  • Boar = a male pig
  • Porker (55-60kg) = for smaller joints on the bone, sold as fresh meat
  • Cutter (64-82kg) = trimmed of fat and skin mainly for large joints, with some of the carcass used for processed products.
  • Baconer (85-100kg) = cured
  • Heavy Hog (110-125kg) = often trimmed of skin and fat and most often used for sausages, pies and processed meats
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  • Lamb = a young sheep, normally up until a year of age
  • Ewe = mature female
  • Ram = mature male
  • Shearling = a year old, has been shorn once
  • Yeld Gimmer = ewe in lamb or with lamb
  • Barren Ewe = not pregnant
  • Dry Ewe = not producing milk
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  • Calf = young cattle less than a year old
  • Steer = male between 6 and 24 months
  • Stirk = female between 6 and 12 months
  • Heifer = female up until her second calving
  • Cow = mature female having had 2 or more calves
  • Bullock = castrated male under 2 years of age, destined for beef
  • Bull = male animal which is part of the cattle breeding herd
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Livestock Operations: Tail Docking

If a lamb’s tail is left long in adulthood it can get cold with the sheep’s faeces which increases the likelihood of fly strike. The sheep can die of maggots if they get fly strike. Tail docking is done within the first week of life with a rubber ring. It is important to leave enough tail to cover the animal’s *****. Generally, the rubber ring is wrapped where the bald bit of skin ends of the underside of the tail. The end of the tail should drop off within a couple of weeks. Do not perform tail docking within 24 hours of birth.

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Livestock Operations: Castration (in lambs)

Do not automatically castrate male lambs as there are welfare problems. It is suggested to castrate twins and triplets. Perform castration after 24 hours but before 1 week of age. Apply the rubber ring to the neck of the scrotum, making sure both testicles are within the sac. Don’t catch the accessory teats within the rubber ring. The testicles will drop off within 10 days.

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Livestock Operations: Disbudding (calves)

Restrain the calf and feel for the bud. Administer anti-inflammatory as a subcutaneous injection behind the shoulder. Administer local anaesthetic between the base of the ear and the corner of the eye and below the bony ridge, about 0.5cm deep. Wait 5 minutes for anaesthetic to work. Irons should turn from orange to blue when they are hot enough. To check if the iron is hot enough use a piece of straw and it should burn immediately. Remove the bud by applying the iron directly over the bud, keeping it there for 2-3 seconds, and rotating it 360 degrees around the bud. Apply antibiotic spray/fly repellent if required.

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Livestock Operations: Ear Tagging (lambs)

Can be 12 hours old. E-ID tag in the right ear. Place tag between the two ridges of cartilage about one third of the way down the ear. Add a DNA sample tag on the left ear. On the DNA tag there is a vial that will fall off after tagging. Spray with disinfecting spray to prevent infection.

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  • Any consideration of welfare must involve health and well-being.
  • Causes of 'poor welfare'
    • Abuse: suffering, fear, injury, pain and distress
    • Neglect: malnutrition, lack of care
    • Deprivation: prevention of psychological fulfilment and behavioural needs.
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