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Glossary of Milk, Cheese and Dairy Terms


  • Antibiotic: a medication that kills or slows the growth of harmful bacteria. When cow's become ill with a bacterial infection, just like with humans, they are treated with antibiotics Even organic milk cows may be treated, to save their lives. In ewither case, cows that are treated with an antibiotic are milked separately from the healthy herd. and the milk is not sold until both testing and time have passed to prove they are clear of illness and antibiotics.
  • Artificial Insemination (AI): An advanced breeding process that involves collecting sperm from a male, inspecting it for quality and freezing it until it is ready to be artificially inserted into a female. Studies show that AI is safer and more efficient than using natural insemination. In addition, AI is one of many modern techniques that helps dairy farmers improve the genetics of their herds.


  • Biodynamic: You'll see this on the label of milks sourced from farms that use the biodynamic farming method. Biodynamic farming shares principles with organic farming (such as requiring that any fertilizers used are based on biodegradable material of microbial, plant or animal origin produced from organic practices) but has additional requirements for enhancing the soil's structure and nutrient cycles.
  • Genetic engineering: A technology based on biology that is used for agricultural, food science or medicinal purposes. In agriculture, the process involves creating or modifying DNA to impart beneficial genetic traits.
  • Bovine: Of the biological subfamily Bovinae. This diverse group features about 24 species of medium sized to large ungulates (animals with hoofs) such as domestic cattle. Other members include bison, water buffalo and yak.
  • Bulk Tank: A refrigerated, stainless steel storage tank located at the dairy, designed to hold milk as soon as it leaves the cow. The milk is cooled immediately in the bulk tank, usually to 35-39 degrees F.The milk is then collected by a bulk tank truck and shipped to a processing plant.
  • Bull: An adult male dairy animal. Young male dairy animals are known as bull calves.
  • Butter: Butter is produced by churning the fat from milk or cream until it solidifies. The butter mass is washed and sometimes salted to improve keeping qualities.


  • Calf: A young female dairy animal before she has matured. A young male is called a bull calf.
  • Casein: The dominant protein (80 percent) in cow's milk. Casein is vital to cheese making, and has a variety of uses in manufacturing as well.
  • Cloning: creates a genetic “twin” of another animal. A cloned animal has the same DNA as its parent, much like identical twins share the same DNA. Many types of animals have been cloned in the past 20 years. The process involves transferring genetic material from one animal to the egg of another, then implanting the embryo in a host female for conventional development and birth.
  • Colostrum: The first milk given by a dairy cow following birth that is rich in fat and protein and has immunity elements. Colostrum is given to newborn calves in the first 24 hours of life.
  • Cream: Milk is separated by large machines in bulk. Cream is the high-fat milk product separated from milk. The cream is processed and used to produce various products with varying names, such as “heavy cream” or “whipping cream.” Cream contains at least 18% milk fat. Some cream is dried and powdered and some is condensed by evaporation and canned.
  • Cud: 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 consuming food and an additional 10 hours a day chewing her cud.
  • Curd: The clumps of protein and other milk components that are formed during the cheese making process. Curds are pressed into blocks or barrels for proper aging and curing of the cheese.


  • Dry Cows: A cow that is not producing milk (lactating). The “dry” period lasts 50-70 days when a cow
    is preparing to give birth to a calf, which begins a new


  • Factory Farm: A term used to refer to larger-scale farms. According to USDA, 99% of dairy farms in the U.S. are family-owned and operated.
  • Family Farm: Proprietorships, partnerships or family operations that do not have hired managers. A recent USDA report shows that 99% of dairy farms in the U.S. are family-owned and operated.
  • Forage: Cow feed that is high in fiber and low in digestible nutrients. Examples include whole plants of corn, small grains (such as oats, barley, or wheat), legumes and grasses.
  • Freestall Barn: A type of facility to house dairy cows that provides the animals with a clean, dry, comfortable resting area and easy access to food and water. The cows are not restrained and are free to enter, lie down, rise and leave the barn whenever they desire.
  • Fresh Cow: A cow that has recently given birth to a calf.


  • Guernsey: A small, cream-and-brown breed of dairy cattle that produces more milk per unit of body weight than any other breed. Guernseys are renowned for the high butterfat content of their milk. The Guernsey was bred on the British Channel Island of Guernsey and descended from cattle stock brought from nearby Normandy.


  • Hay: Dried feed such as rye, alfalfa, clover, grass and oats, which is used as a food source for dairy cows. A hay pasture is mowed and the trimmings dry in the sun for two to three days. The hay is then gathered by a piece of farm machinery called a baler that processes it into varying sizes of bales, which can be rectangular or round.
  • Heifer: A female dairy animal that has yet to give birth to a calf.
  • Herd: A grouping of cows on a dairy farm. Cows are often placed into herds with other cows of their age or milking status such as dry cows and heifers.
  • Holstein: A black and white dairy cow (though there are some “Red Holsteins”) that is the most predominant breed of dairy cattle worldwide. The Holstein originated in the province of Friesland, The Netherlands. They are known for having the highest milk production of all of the breeds of dairy cattle.
  • Homogenized: Refers to milk and dairy that have been mixed to reduce the fat globules in size, so they no longer separate and float to the top. The process prevents the cream from separating out and gives the milk a more uniform color. Fat floats on top of milk that has not been homogenized.
  • Hormone: A chemical messenger from one cell (or group of cells) to another. Hormones are naturally produced by nearly every organ system and tissue type in a human or animal body. All milk naturally contains hormones. References to hormones on milk packaging refer to whether the dairy farmers producing that milk use a supplemental hormone with their cows.




  • Jersey: A breed of dairy cattle that is renowned for the high butterfat content of its milk. Jersey cows are smaller than other breeds (800 to 1,200 pounds) and are known for their big eyes, honey-brown color and docile natures.


  • Lactation: The secretion of milk from the cow's udder.


  • Mastitis: An inflammation of a dairy cow's milk ducts while she is lactating. Mastitis is usually caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Methane Digester: Technology that converts cow manure into methane gas that is burned as fuel to generate electricity.
  • Milk fat, this is 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.
  • Milking Machines: Machinery used by dairy farmers 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.
  • Milking Parlor: A specialized area on the dairy farm where the milking process is performed. Cows are brought into the parlor two or three times a day. Parlors come in many types and names, including flat barn, herringbone, parallel, swing, walk-through and rotary.



  • Organic milk comes from organically farmed animals fed a variety of foods natural to their diet, and allowed free movement and natural light and ventilation while inside. In ordered to be labeled "organic" it must meet the USDA's National Organic Program standards. and be certified.


  • Pasteurized milk and dairy products have been briefly heat-treated to kill bugs and prevent spoilage. It's particularly important that milk produced on an industrial scale is pasteurized. Collecting and pooling milk from many different farms increases the risk that a given batch will be contaminated, and the plumbing and machinery needed for the various stages of processing also increase opportunities for contamination. Pasteurization DOES NOT affect the taste or nutritional value of milk. Pasteurization has been recognized around the world as an essential tool for protecting public health. The process was named after its inventor, French scientist Louis Pasteur.
  • Pasture: Land at a dairy farm that is lush with vegetation cover such as grasses or legumes and is used for grazing dairy cows.
  • Pesticides: Any substance created to prevent, destroy or repel pests — such as insects, plant pathogens, weeds, nematodes and microbes — that destroy property, spread disease or are a nuisance. The EPA has strict regulations about farm practices involving the use of pesticides and the FDA tightly monitors foods for pesticide residues.
  • Processing Plant: A facility that pasteurizes, homogenizes and packages milk that comes directly from dairy farms. Once the milk leaves the processing plant, it is available to the public through a variety of channels, including grocery stores, schools and restaurants.


  • Raw Milk: Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. See this page for more information
  • rBGH or rbST: bST (bovine somatotropin) is a protein hormone that occurs naturally in all dairy cows.Some farmers choose to supplement some of their cows with rbST, also known as bovine growth hormone (rBGH), to help increase milk production. The safety of milk from rbST-supplemented cows has been affirmed and reaffirmed since it was approved for use in the U.S. in the early 1990s.
  • Rumen: Cows have one stomach that is divided into four compartments, the largest being the rumen. The rumen allows cows to regurgitate forage and re-chew their cud for further digestion.
  • Ruminant: 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.


  • Silage: Fermented, high-moisture forage that is eaten by grazing animals such as dairy cows. Silage is most often made from grass crops such as corn or sorghum and retains a great deal of the nutrients present in the plant.
  • Silo: A storage facility on farms that is designed to store silage.
  • Skim Milk: The product left after the cream is removed from milk is called skim, skimmed or fat-free milk.
  • 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. 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.


  • Teat: The appendage on a cow's udder through which milk from the udder flows. Dairy cows commonly have four teats.
  • TMR (Total Mixed Ration): A nutritionally-balanced blend of forage and grain ingredients mixed by a machine to specific rations. This method allows cows to consume the desired proportion of forages when two or more forages are offered.


  • Udder: The encased group of mammary glands on a dairy cow.
  • UHT or Long-life milk has been pasteurized using the ultra-high temperature (UHT) method. If packaged under strictly sterile conditions, it can be stored for months without refrigeration.



  • Wet Solids - Condensed milk, skim milk, or whey may be referred to as wet solids, to distinguish from dry solids in the form of nonfat dry milk or dried whey powder..
  • Whey: The watery part of milk that separates from the curds during the cheese-making process. The composition of whey varies considerably, depending on the milk source and the manufacturing process involved. Typically, it contains about 93.3 percent water and 6.5 percent lactose, protein, minerals, enzymes; water-soluble vitamins and 0.2% fat.



  • Yogurt is fermented milk, lowfat milk, or skim milk, sometimes protein- fortified. Fruit, flavors and sugars may be added. Milk solids content is commonly 15 percent. Most yogurt is high in protein and low in calories. Sometimes referred to as refrigerated yogurt to distinguish from frozen yogurt, an ice cream-like product.



  1. Utah Dairy Council

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