Describing and Identifying Livestock
(Beef, Sheep, Swine, Goats)
Discussions of livestock almost always involve descriptions and comparisons of individual animals.
Often, livestock managers use terminology and a “language” that has specific meaning to others involved
in the business.
As a student of animal science it is important to learn this language so that you can
participate in these discussions.
The following is a taxonomy of the ways in which livestock are described and compared.
It certainly is
not a complete dictionary of the terms that one may encounter in the livestock industries, but serves as a
way of organizing concepts.
One may also find regional differences in the way in which livestock are
described, and sometimes the meaning of terms evolve over time (for example “old-fashioned” cattle, or
“modern-type” hogs has a different meaning every few years).
You will want to learn the terms presented here so that you are more conversational in the discipline.
Similar information will be presented on the other domestic species of focus in our class as we come to
them during the semester.
Breed/Class of Breeds
Breeds are described in variety of ways.
With regards to livestock breed descriptions and identification
presents a real challenge to the student because many variations, and regional differences in definitions and
Crossbreeding and selection trends create new descriptions for what otherwise is
referenced as the same breed.
For example, Simmental cattle are originally yellow and white, but in the
US most now are solid black.
Breed names (often have descriptive clues.
For example Brangus- a composite; Yorkshire –
a region of England; or Friesian Milk Sheep – productive use).
Purpose (maternal, paternal or dual purpose)
Origins, History of development or use
Color, Patterns of Color
black, white faced, black points,
white faced, baldy, roan, smokey, brindle
colored, white, roan, blue butt, belted
Distinguishing Physical Characteristics
There are several categories in which livestock are visually described and compared.
When describing or
comparing livestock with interest in their “composition” (meaning potential carcass characteristics – the
stuff we eat), then one might describe the animal in terms of . .
When describing muscle, trimness and skeletal differences (both size and structure), one might consider
looking in the following areas!
For muscle differences in:
Look for differences in the: