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Definition via Dairy Dictionary:


A breed of dairy cattle that originated from the County of Ayr in Scotland. The average mature Ayrshire cow weighs between 1,000 and 1,300 pounds and has red markings that can vary in color from orange to brown.

Milking Parlor

A specialized area on the dairy farm where cows are milked two or three times a day. Equipment delivers the milk directly from the cows to a refrigerated holding tank to preserve freshness and safety. The milk is then quickly transported to the dairy plant. Parlors come in many types, including flat barn, herringbone, parallel, swing, walk-through and rotary.

Organic Milk

Milk and milk products that are labeled “USDA organic.” This is products deriving from milk that comes from farms that meet USDA’s National Organic Program standards. Organic milk is one of many options in the dairy case – and all pasteurized milk is safe, delicious and nutritious, no matter which variety people choose.

Nutrient Management Plan

A planning resource that defines the nutrient needs of crops and the amount, sources, placement, and timing of fertilizer applications to maximize nutrient uptake of crops and improve yields. Nutrient management plans help protect the environment and crop production.

Livestock Veterinarian

Animal doctors who have earned a degree in veterinary medicine. Sometimes called “large animal veterinarians,” many specialize in the treatment of dairy cows and work directly with dairy farmers to ensure healthy herds.

Methane Digester

Technology that converts cow manure into methane gas that is burned as fuel to generate electricity.


A simple, effective method to kill harmful pathogens through heat treatment without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. Pasteurization is recognized around the world as an essential tool for protecting public health since it was first introduced in 1864. The process was named after French scientist Louis Pasteur.

Replacement Heifers

Female dairy animals that are raised with the intent of eventually replacing the cows currently in the milking herd.

rBGH or rBST

A synthetic version of bovine somatotropin that some farmers opt to use to increase milk production. rbST is a naturally-occurring protein hormone in cows. A trace amount of this hormone is present in all milk, including organic products, and is digested when humans eat it, just like other proteins. rbST has been in use for more than 20 years, and its safety has been affirmed and reaffirmed by government agencies in the United States and around the world.


Any hooved animal, such as a dairy cow, that digests its food by first eating the raw material and then regurgitating a semi-digested form known as cud. These animals then eat their cud, a process called ruminating. Other ruminants include goats, sheep, camels, llamas, giraffes, bison, buffalo, and deer.


The largest of the four compartments in a cows’ stomach. The rumen allows cows to regurgitate forage and re-chew their cud for further digestion.


Any substance created to prevent, destroy or repel insects, plant pathogens, weeds, nematodes, and microbes that destroy property, spread disease or are a nuisance.


Land at a dairy farm that is lush with grasses or legumes and is used for grazing dairy cows.

Raw Milk

Milk that has not been pasteurized before consumption. The dairy industry has long endorsed pasteurization in killing potentially harmful microorganisms as a major public health protection. Pasteurization does not affect the nutritional value of milk in any meaningful way.

Processing Plant

A facility that pasteurizes, homogenizes and packages/bottles milk that comes directly from dairy farms. Once milk leaves the plant, it is available to the public through a variety of channels, including grocery stores, schools and restaurants.


A bag-shaped part on the underside of a female cow in which milk is formed and stored.


The cow’s udder contains four teats that function as the exit for milk.

Ear Tag

A device similar to an earring that dairy farmers place in the ears of their animals to identify each member of the herd. Ear tags contain a number that is given to that particular cow and allows the dairy farmer to maintain accurate health and milk production records.

Somatic Cell Count

The number of white blood cells per milliliter of milk or measurement of the number of somatic cells present in a sample of milk. All milk naturally contains some somatic cells, which enable cows to fight infection and ensure good health. Farmers routinely monitor their herds for somatic cell counts as a general gauge of the cow's well-being.


The partially digested food that is regurgitated from the first compartment of the cow’s stomach into the mouth to be chewed again. A cow may spend seven hours a day eating food and an additional 10 hours a day chewing her cud.


A young female dairy animal before she has matured. A young male is called a bull calf.


The dominant protein (80 percent) in cow’s milk. Casein is vital to cheesemaking and has a variety of uses in manufacturing.


Butter is produced by churning the fat from milk or cream until it solidifies. It may then be salted.


A mature female of cattle that has delivered a calf, usually around 2 years of age.


Also known as milkfat, the fatty portion of milk. Milk and cream are often sold according to the amount of butterfat they contain. In the United States, there are federal standards for butterfat content of dairy products.


The first milk given to calves in the first 24 hours of life by a dairy cow following birth. Colostrum is rich in fat and protein and has immunity elements.


A process used by dairy farmers in which cow manure and other organic matter at the farm is collected and processed into a natural soil enhancement, furthering dairy’s commitment to sustainability.


A chemical messenger from one cell (or group of cells) to another. Hormones are naturally present in many foods of plant and animal origin, including all milk. Bovine somatotropin is a naturally-occurring protein hormone in cows. A trace amount of this hormone is present in all milk, including organic products, and is digested when humans eat it, just like other proteins. References to hormones on milk packaging refer to whether farmers produce milk by treating their cows with a supplemental hormone.


The replacement or supplementation of rainfall with water from another source in order to grow crops. Irrigation sources include a nearby or distant body of water such as a river, spring, lake, aquifer, well or snowpack. The water can be directly channeled to the fields or stored in a reservoir for later use.


An individual housing unit designed for young calves.

Family Farm

A USDA report shows that 97 percent of dairy farms in the United States are owned and operated by families.

Milking Machines

Machinery used on the farm to extract milk from cows. Electronic milking machines use a pulsating vacuum that simulates the effect of a suckling calf. The machines do not cause any harm or discomfort to the cows and they keep the milk safe from external contamination.