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Dairy Glossary

Acid Rinse - Part of the equipment cleaning process for stainless steel and rubber parts, removes fat, protein and minerals and also reduces bacteria. (See Equipment Sanitization)

Acute - Used to describe disease where symptoms are readily evident. Treatment is generally required.

Alley - A walking area for cattle within a barn such as a loafing alley, feeding alley or cross alley (walkway) from a barn to the milking parlor.

Alley Scraper - A "V" shaped mechanical blade that is dragged over an alley by chain or cable to pull manure to collection channel at the end of the alley (or possibly the center of the barn). The blade then collapses and is drawn back to the opposite end of the alley.

Antibiotic - A metabolic product of one microorganism or a chemical that in low concentrations is detrimental to activities of specific other microorganisms. Examples include penicillin, tetracycline, and streptomycin. Not effective against viruses. A drug that kills microorganisms that cause mastitis or other infectious disease.

Antibiotic Residues - The presence of traces of antibiotics or their derivatives in milk or meat.

Antibiotic Test Kit - Test kit for use on the farm to detect residues of antibiotics in milk before the milk is picked up for delivery to the plant.

Automatic Detacher or Automatic Take-off - A device for sensing the end of milk flow in the milking machine which shuts of the milking vacuum and releases the milking machine from the cow's udder.

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Barn Cleaner

Barn Cleaner - Usually a chain linked system of paddles that moved manure from gutters, up a chute, into a waiting manure spreader. Most often seen in tie-stall or stanchion barns.

Drive-By Free Stall Barns

Bedded Pack - Open housing in a barn that is commonly used in conjunction with an outside feeding area.

Bedding - Material used to absorb moisture and provide cushion. It is easily cleaned to provide a clean, dry surface and reduce the incidence of mastitis. Possible bedding materials include: straw, sawdust, wood chips, sand, ground limestone, separated manure solids, shredded newspaper, corn stalks, bark, peanut hulls, sunflower hulls and rice hulls.

Biosecurity - Any of a broad range of practices enforced at a dairy farm to prevent transmittal of pathogens from other sources by feed, cattle, people, or other animals.

Blind Quarter - A quarter of an udder that does not secrete milk or one that has an obstruction in the teat that prevents the removal of milk. A nonfunctional mammary gland.

Bovine - Refers to cattle or oxen.

Brisket Board - A raised part of the freestall platform about 6.5 feet in front of rear of the stall to keep cows positioned properly while lying. Usually made of wood or plastic, but occasionally concrete.

Broken Udder - Term used to describe an udder that is loosely attached or pendulous.

Bucket Milking System - A system in which the milk coming from the cow is drawn into a bucket or pail and manually transferred to a collection area or the milk house.

Bull - A sexually mature, uncastrated bovine male.

Bulk Tank - A refrigerated, stainless steel vessel in which milk is cooled quickly to 2 to 4°C (35 - 39°F) and stored until collected by a bulk tank truck for shipping to the milk plant.

Feed Bunk

Feed Bunk

Bunk - A feed trough or feeding station for cattle.

Bunker Silo

Bunker Silo

Bunker - (Sometimes called Bunker Silo) A flat rectangular structure with concrete floors and walls used to ensile and store forages.

Bunker Silo

Bunker Silo

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Calf - A young male or female bovine. Usually referred to as calves until reaching sexual maturity.

Cannula - A special tube designed for placing drugs into the udder through the teat end and streak canal.

Chalk Sticks - Used to mark treated, fresh, or special-needs cows.

Cheese Curd - The clumps of casein and other milk components that are formed during the cheese making process. These curds are then pressed into blocks or barrels for proper aging and curing of the cheese.

Churning - The process of stirring and agitating cream in the process of making butter. Churning causes the fat globules in cream to clump together and separate from the liquid.

Chronic - Used to describe recurring symptoms or disease.

Clinical - Symptoms are present, supportive therapy or treatment is necessary.

Colostrum - First milk following calving. High in fat, protein, and immunoglobulins that may be directly absorbed by the newborn calf in its first 24 hours of life.

Commodity Barn

Commodity Barn

Commodity Storage - Usually a steel framed shed that provides storage for commodity feeds, such as cottonseed, brewers grains, chopped hay, etc.

Composting Pad - A concrete or hard packed surface that provides an area on which manure and discarded feed may be composted with ready access to aerate the composting materials.

Concentrates - High energy or high protein feeds consisting primarily of the seed of the plant, but with out stems and leaves.

Conformation - The body form or physical traits of an animal or parts of the animal in the case of udder conformation.

Contagious - Disease that can be passed from one cow to another through a number of possible ways.

Corn Belt - The area of the United States where corn is a principal cash crop, including Iowa, Indiana, most of Illinois, and parts of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Cow - A mature female bovine. Usually referring to any dairy females that have borne a calf. Some may consider females having given birth only once as "first-calf heifers" until they have a second calf.

Cow Trainer - A tin or wire structure supported a few inches above a cow to prevent her from soiling the platform of her stall by administering a gentle electric shock if she arches her back to urinate or defecate while too far forward in the stall.

Coverall Barn

Coverall - A brand name, but commonly referring to any of a group of hoop type barns with opaque or mylar fabric covers over a tubular steel frame.

Indoor Crates

Crate - An elevated stall for a calf in an indoor facility.

Indoor Crates


Crowd Gate - A motorized or manual gate at the end of the holding pen that may be moved forward to guide cows toward the entrance to the milking parlor.

Cull - To remove a cow from the herd. Culling reasons in clued voluntary culling of cows for low milk production, or involuntary culling of cows for reasons of health or injury.

Cull Cow - A cow having been identified to be removed from the herd or having recently left.

Culture - In microbiology, a population of microorganisms in a growth medium or the act of growing bacteria in media for identification. A pure culture contains only organisms that initially arose from a single cell. Cultures are used in manufacturing cultured dairy products and most cheeses.

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Dairy Cow - A bovine from which milk production is intended for human consumption, or is kept for raising replacement dairy heifers.

Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) - A specific testing plan which requires supervision and compliance with all official DHI rules.

Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) - An organization with programs and objectives intended to improve the production and profitability of dairy farming. Aids farmers in keeping milk production and management records.

Dairy Herd Improvement Registry (DHIR) - A modification of the DHIA program to make milk production records acceptable by the specific dairy breed associations.

DHI Records - Generic term used to refer to records computed by the Dairy Record Processing Centers.

DHI Supervisor - An officially trained and DHIA-certified employee qualified to collect milk samples and record milk weights on the farm for all official types of testing plans.

Dairy Steer - A neutered male of any of the dairy cattle breeds. The "dairy steers" are raised for meat production and usually managed like beef cattle.

Dam - Mother or female parent in a pedigree.

Denitrification - The biochemical reduction of nitrate or nitrite to gaseous nitrogen, either as molecular nitrogen or as an oxide of nitrogen.

Direct Microscopic Somatic Cell Count (DMSCC) - Microscopic count of the actual number of somatic cells in milk. This system is used to check and verify electronic cell count machines used in DHI laboratories.

Dock - To remove a cow's tail. This practice may keep cows udders cleaner, but may also result in cows being less content, especially in fly season.

Downer Cow - A cow unable to arise due to disease or injury.

Dry Cow - A cow that is not lactating or secreting milk after it has completed a lactation period following calving.

Dry Lot - An open lot that may be covered with concrete, but that has no vegetative cover. Generally used as exercise areas in most of US, but may be used as primary cow housing in the more arid climates.

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Edema - The presence of abnormally large amounts of fluid in the intercellular tissue spaces of the body, as in a swelling of mammary glands commonly accompanying the initiation of the birthing process in many farm animals.

Electronic Feeders - Stations in which cows are fed specified amounts of feed by a computer that recognizes their unique electronic identification transponders.

Environmental - Derived from the animal's environment, bedding, housing, etc.

Equipment Sanitization - The removal of microorganisms and fat, protein, and mineral residues in milking equipment through use of water, heat, and chemicals.

Extra-Label Drug Use - An antibiotic or other chemical used on the advice of a veterinarian in a dosage, route of administration, for a different disease or in some other manner not included on the approved printed package label.

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Fibrosis (fibrotic) - Of a condition marked by the presence of interstitial fibrous tissue, especially in the mammary gland resulting from mastitis.

Flat Barn - An area for milking cattle where the person milking is on the same level as the cow. May be used with a pipeline or bucket milking system. Generally the same area is used for cow housing.

Flush System - A manure removal system in which an area is cleaned by high volumes of fresh water, or gray water that is recycled from a manure pit or lagoon.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - An agency of the U.S. Government responsible for the safety of the human food supply.

Footbath - A long shallow tub or depression in the concrete where cows walk through a mild solution (usually including copper sulfate or formalin) to promote foot health. Usually located along an alley where cows return from the milking parlor.

Forage - Feedstuffs composed primarily of the whole plant, including stems and leaves.

Forestripping - Expressing streams of milk from the teat prior to machine milking to determine visual quality and to stimulate "milk letdown."

Forequarters - The two front quarters of a cow. Also called the fore udder.

Drive-Through Free Stall Barns

Drive-through Freestall Barn
Source: Stacy Nichols, Land O'Lakes

Freestalls - Resting cubicles or "beds" in which dairy cows are free to enter and leave, as opposed to being confined in stanchions or pens.

Fresh Cow - A cow that has recently given birth to a calf.

Fresh Milk - Dairy products having original qualities unimpaired and those recently produced or processed.

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Garget - A common term for an inflammation of the udder of the cow or the resulting abnormal milk. More accurately referred to as mastitis.

Germicidal - A substance that has the ability to kill germs.

Gray Water - Water that is considered waste and not to be used for cleaning milking systems. Usually including recycled water from a lagoon or milk house waste. Even water only used to cool milk in a plate cooler is considered gray water, though it is often fed to cows to reduce total usage.

Greenhouse Barn

Greenhouse Barn - Commonly referring to any of a group of hoop type barns with translucent or plastic covers over a tubular steel frame.

Grooved Concrete - Floor surfaces with grooved patterns cut or depressed into concrete to provide better traction for cattle.

Gutter - A shallow to deep channel located behind cows in tiestall barns capture manure and urine.

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Handlers - Processors or dealers of milk who commonly purchase raw milk and sell pasteurized milk and milk products.

hand milking

Source: Genex, CRI

Hand Milking - The manual milking of an animal as opposed to the use of mechanical milking devices.

Harvestore Silo - A brand of oxygen limiting (air tight) upright silos with bottom unloading.

Hay - Dried feed consisting of the entire plant. Alfalfa, clover, grass, and oat hay are used in dairy rations.

Headlocks - Self-locking stanchions along a feed alley in which cows voluntarily enter the head slot when going to eat. All cows may be held until herd health work is completed, and then all cows may be simultaneously released. Headlocks may be adjusted to remain open, allowing cows to come an go at will, when restraining the cows is not necessary.

Heifer - A bovine female less than three years of age who has not borne a calf. Young cows with their first calves are often called first-calf heifers.

Herd - A group of animals (especially cattle), collectively considered as a unit.

Herringbone Parlor

Herringbone Parlor
Source: Midwest Plan Service

Herringbone Parlor - A milking parlor in which cows stand side-by-side, angled towards the pit. This allows milking from the side of the udder.

Herringbone Parlor

Herringbone Parlor
Source: Midwest Plan Service


Holding Pen - An area in which cows congregate prior to entering a milking parlor to be milked.

Hot Quarter - A quarter of the udder that is infected and may actually feel hard or hot to the touch due to elevated temperatures.

Hutch - An individual housing unit for young calves. Often made of white fiberglass or polyvinyl.

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Immunity - The power an animal has to resist and/or overcome an infection to which most of its species are susceptible. Active immunity is due to the presence of antibodies formed by an animal in response to previous exposure to the disease or through live or modified-live vaccines. Passive immunity is produced by giving the animal preformed or synthetic antibodies as with killed vaccines.

Inflammation - Swelling caused by the accumulation of lymph and blood cells at the site of infection or injury.

Inorganic - Not capable of sustaining life. Often refers to dirt or soil.

Intramuscular - Injections given in the muscle.

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Lactate - To secrete or produce milk.

Lagoon - An earthen pond used as a primary storage site for manure.

Leg Bands - Cloth or plastic strips of a bright color used for marking treated cows, fresh cows, or cows needing special handling.

Legume - Any of thousands of plant species that have seed pods that split along both sides when ripe. Some of the more common legumes used for human consumption are beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, and soybeans. Others, such as clover and alfalfa, are used as animal feed. Legumes have a unique ability to obtain much or all of their nitrogen requirements from symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

Letdown - The process in a cow where physical stimulation causes a release of oxytocin and the contraction of smooth muscles surrounding milk alveoli resulting in fluid pressure within the udder and milk flow.

Liner - A flexible sleeve in the milking teat cup or rigid-walled liner holder. Responsible for massaging the teat end and intermittently cutting vacuum at the teat end during milking. Also called an inflation.

Liner Slips or Squawks - Slippage of the liner and teat cup during milking. Caused by a sharp change of milking vacuum within the unit or cluster by drawing in air alongside the teat. Generally creates a "squawking" sound.

Loose Housing - Facilities that allow cattle access to a large, open bedded area for resting (also known as free housing). Loose housing should provide at least 200 square feet per animal for feeding and resting (freestall housing uses only 90 square feet per animal). (See Open Barns)

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Mastitis - An inflammation of the mammary gland (or glands), usually caused by bacteria.

Maternity Barn - A special needs facility where cows can be closely monitored during the period immediately before and after they give birth.

Rubber Mattresses

Mattress - Bedding material compacted to 3 to 4 inches and sandwiched in a heavyweight polypropolene or other fabric. Possible fillers include: long or chopped straw, poor quality hay, sawdust, shavings, rice hulls and, most commonly, shredded rubber.

Milk Handlers - Processors or dealers of milk who commonly purchase raw milk and sell pasteurized milk and milk products.

Milk House - The area near a milking parlor where the bulk milk tank, cleaning units, and equipment are located.

Milk House Waste - Water having been used in cleaning the milking equipment and washing the parlor.

Milking Pit - A sunken area that houses both the milker and some milking equipment during milking. This places the milker at shoulder level with udders and reduces physical demands.

Mycoplasma - An organism capable of causing mastitis.

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Nitrification - The biochemical oxidation of ammonium to nitrate, predominantly by autotrophic bacteria.

Non-Return Dip Cup - A dip cup that does not allow the liquid to reenter and potentially contaminate the storage container.

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Open Barns/Tromp Sheds/Loose Housing - Open spaced shelter in which cattle are free to move about or rest wherever they might prefer, usually on a pack of bedding and manure. Organic - A substance that contains carbon and capable of sustaining life.

Organic Material - Substances containing plant or animal substance. In the context of milking equipment this usually refers to manure.

Over the Counter Drugs - Medications available without prescription.

Oxytocin - A naturally secreted hormone that is important in milk letdown and the contraction of the smooth uterine muscles during the birthing process.

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Paddocks - Subdivision of a pasture designed to provide short-duration grazing followed by an appropriate (related to species, soil type and weather conditions) rest period for regrowth and stand maintenance.

Paint Sticks - Contain liquid or chalky paint used for marking treated cows.

Parakeratosis - Any abnormality of the horny layer of the outer skin which prevents the formation of keratin.

Parallel Parlors

Parallel Parlors
Source: Midwest Plan Service

Parallel Parlor- A raised milking area or platform where the cow stands perpendicular to the operator and milking units are attached between the rear legs. This may also be referred to as a side-by-side.

Parallel Parlors

Parallel Parlors
Source: Midwest Plan Service


Parlor - The specialized area on the dairy farm where milking is performed. Parlors come in many types:

Pasture - Plants, such as grass, grown for feeding or grazing animals. Also serves as a place to feed cattle and other livestock.

Pathogen - Any microorganism that produces disease (bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds and parasites).

Pendulous Udder - A loosely attached udder.

Pipeline - A stainless steel or glass pipe used for transporting milk.

Pit - A contained unit usually with concrete walls in which liquid or semi-liquid manure is stored.

Plate Cooler - A heat exchanger in which water at ground temperature or chilled water is used to cool milk prior to its movement to the bulk milk tank.

Post-Milking Teat Dip - A product applied after milking to protect the teat from contagious pathogens that may have come into contact with the teat during the milking process.

Pre-Milking Teat Dip - A product applied in preparation for milking to clean the teat and reduce the spread of disease and maintain healthy teats.

Prescription Drugs - Drugs that the FDA has determined must be used only under the direction and supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

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Rapid Exit - Panels or rails that raise to release all cows on one side of the milking parlor at once.

Replacements Heifers - Often ones being raised to replace the cows currently in the herd.

Return Alley - The alley through which cows must pass when moving from the milking parlor back to the cow housing area after milking.

Ring Feeder - A steel hoop with individual head gates that may be placed over a large round bale of hay when feeding it.

Robotic Parlor - A completely automated system for milking cows that requires limited human contact.

Rotary Parlors

Rotary Parlor

Rotary Parlor - A raised, round rotating platform or carousel on which cows ride while being milked.

Ruminant - Animals having four stomach compartments - rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasums - through which food passes in digestion. These animals chew their cud or regurgitate partially digested food for further breakdown in the mouth. Ruminant animals include cattle, sheep, goats, deer and camels.

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Sand Separator - A mechanical device or series of course ways used to settle sand from sand-laden manure.

Scrape-and-Haul - Manure handling system in which manure is scrape manually or with a skidloader, placed in a solid manure spreader and directly applied to appropriate crop land.

Sensitivity Tests - Tests used to determine the most effective method of treatment of disease by testing the resistance of the microorganism to classes of antibiotics.

Separator -

  1. Formerly a centrifuge device used to remove the fat from milk on the farm, but now used primarily at processing plants.
  2. A device used to separate manure into solids and effluent and accomplished by trickling manure over a sloped screen or mechanically forcing through a screen.

Settling Pond - A manure pit where the flow rate of liquid manure is slowed to allow suspended materials to collect at the bottomed, where they can later be removed.

Silage - A feed prepared by chopping green forage (e.g. grass, legumes, field corn) and placing the material in a structure or container designed to exclude air. The material then undergoes fermentation, retarding spoilage. Silage has a water content of between 60 and 80%.

Silage Bags - Large plastic tubes in which forages are fermented. Plastic is removed and discarded as the ensiled feed is fed.

Silo - A storage facility for silage. Usually referring to upright concrete or fiberglass silos.

Sire - Father or male parent in a pedigree.

Slotted Floor - A concrete floor design in which slats are positioned in the floor so that cow traffic may work manure through the slats and into a pit beneath the floor of the barn.

Somatic cell count (SCC) - The number of white blood cells per milliliter of milk or measurement of the number of somatic cells present in a sample of milk. A high concentration of more than 500,000 somatic cells per milliliter of milk indicates abnormal condition in the udder. This serves as an indicator of mastitis infection when elevated above 200,000.

Somatic Cell Score - A logarithmic representation of the SCC, often referred to as linear scores because they are linearly related to milk production loss.

Somatic Cells - The combination of the leukocytes (white blood cells) from blood and the epithelial cells from the secretory tissue of the udder which indicate the presence of infection or injury in the animal.

Sphincter - A ring-shaped muscle that allows an opening to close tightly, such as the sphincter muscle in the lower end of a cow's teat.

Stall - A cow housing cubicle.

Stanchion - a device with two rails that was closed around a cows neck after she entered a stall and to keep her restrained in the stall.

Step-Up Parlor - Cows step onto raised platforms for milking. The milking units are attached from the side.

Sterile - Clean, free of any living organisms. Also means unable to reproduce.

Streak canal - Small canal located in the end of each teat, through which the milk passes immediately prior to expulsion. Also called the teat meatus.

Strip Cup - A small cup or device to collect forestrippings and which makes abnormal milk easier to observe.

Subclinical - A disease condition without symptoms but often resulting in decreased production or impaired milk quality.

Subcutaneous - Under the skin.

Subway - An area beneath the milking pit that houses milk meters, pipelines, vacuum lines and transfer tanks to reduce noise and improve the milker's ability to move around in the pit.

Superhutches - Calf housing structures, often open on one side, designed for a small number of calves when first grouped immediately after weaning.

Swing Parlor - Parlor characterized by having the milking units positioned in the middle of the parlor for use by cows on both sides.

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Tail Bands - Used for marking treated cows. Rubber bands are sometimes used to dock cow's tails.

Tandem Parlor - Parlor design where cows line up head to tail in individually opening stalls.

Teat - The appendage on the udder through which milk from the udder flows.

Teat Dip - Pre and Post-milking - Substance that kills bacteria and helps to seal the teat end to prevent entry of bacteria into the udder between milkings. May contain emollients to improve teat end condition for use in cold, winter conditions.

Teat Sealant - A product that forms a mechanical barrier on the teat end to protect the teat. Generally used at dry-off after antibiotic infusion.

10 Point Milk and Dairy Beef Residue Prevention Protocol - Designed by veterinarians and milk producer organizations to avoid contamination of milk with antibiotics. It identifies the 10 points in milk production where milk is at greatest risk for antibiotic contamination of milk.

Throughput - The number of cows that can be milked in a parlor in a given period of time.

Tie Stall Parlor - Facility is frequently used for both housing and milking. Cows are tied and milked with the cow and operator on the same level.

Total Mixed Ration (TMR) - Ration formulated to meet requirements of the cow in which all of the ingredients are blended together in a mixer.

Toxic - Harmful.

Transition Cow - A cow that is from 2 months before 1 month after expected calving date.

Transition Housing - Barns designed especially for transition cows, often including a maternity area.

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Udder - The encased group of mammary glands provided with teats or nipples as in a cow, ewe, mare or sow. Also referred to as a bag.

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Veal - A calf (usually male) that is raised on milk and is intended to be used for meat at a young age. Veal meat is served at many restaurants and is very popular in cultural cuisine.

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Walk-Through Parlor - Upon completion of milking, cows walk through the front of the stall to exit.

Withdrawal Time - Time required after the last drug treatment to lower drug residues to acceptable levels. These times are established using healthy animals according to label directions. An amount of time required following use of a medication in an animal before milk or meat can be entered into the human food supply. Ensures residues are maintained at levels approved by the USDA.

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Yeast - An organism that can grow and develop in the udder, causing mastitis.

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