They say, “mainly because of their meat” a slogan used by a Canadian retailer for years. But knowing the difference between a cow and a Heifer is as important as selecting a grill, oven or water bath when cooking the meat.
Here are some differences;
A cow is a mature female bovine that has given birth to at least one or two calves.
Bull: a mature, intact testicles present and not removed, a male bovine is used for breeding purposes.
Steer: a male bovine or bull that has been castrated before reaching sexual maturity and is primarily used for beef.
Stag: a male bovine or bull that has been castrated after or upon reaching sexual maturity and is primarily used for beef, but can and is also often used as a “gomer bull” for detecting cows and heifers in heat.
Heifer: a female bovine (often immature, but beyond the “calf” stage) less than 1 to 2 years of age that has never calved. Such females, if they’ve never calved beyond two years of age may also be called heiferettes.
Bred Heifer: a female bovine that is pregnant with her first calf.
First-calf Heifer or First-calver: a female bovine that has given birth to her first calf, and is often around 24 to 36 months of age, depending on the breed and when she was first bred.
Calf (plural: Calves): an immature bovine (male and female) that is reliant on milk from its dam or from a bottle in order to survive and grow. A calf is known as such from birth to around 10 months of age.
Bull calf: an immature intact male bovine (since all males are born with testes) that is reliant on milk from his dam or a bottle for growth and survival.
Steer calf: an immature male bovine that has been castrated a few days to a couple months after birth, and is reliant on milk from his dam or a bottle for growth and survival.
Heifer calf: an immature female bovine that is reliant on milk from her dam or a bottle for growth and survival.
Freemartin: an infertile or sterile heifer or heifer calf. Such infertility is a result of being maternally twinned with a bull calf which placental tissues were shared in the womb. During the first trimester, reproductive organs start to form and sexual hormones begin to be produced in the fetus. When male and female fetal calves are twinned together, the testosterone produced by the male inhibits estrogen production in the female. This results in abnormal, underdeveloped or hermaphroditic reproductive organs in the female fetus. This is not so for the male. Freemartins are sometimes referred as “hermaphrodites” if they are born with reproductive organs of both genders. As a result, these type of freemartins tend to develop secondary male sexual characteristics (muscular crest over neck, wide forehead, etc.) upon reaching puberty.
Cattlebeast or Bovine: a singular term for a bovine whose gender cannot be determined, particularly when viewed at a distance. Most people like to call a bovine of unknown (or “unknown”) gender as a “cow,” simply because it is a much more well-known and popular term to use than “bovine” or “cattlebeast.” This, however, is often not the case around experienced cattlemen and cattlewomen or “ranchers” (as some like to call them) who never use the term “cow” when referring to a bovine that is anything but a cow. “Animal,” “critter,” “creature,” or any other term, coarse or not, are most often used over the colloquial word “cow.”