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Colloquial phrases for farm animal ailments in Ireland

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In this article, University College Dublin veterinary medicine graduate, Austin Donnelly, MVB, tells That’s Farming’s readers about colloquial phrases for farm animal ailments in Ireland, in the third of a four-part mini-series.

It seems there is a whole range of terms and phrases in Ireland for common farm animal conditions.

For a start, if your ewe is yeaning, in counties Wicklow & Wexford specifically, that would mean she is giving birth.

In Co Tyrone, if one of your bullocks was a bit of a pyne, that would indicate he is a poor-doer or suffering ill thrift.

If your cow had a prolapse of the uterus after calving, in the west, she could be said to have her vessel out, whilst, in many other areas, it would be her calf bed out.

Here we look at some more fascinating phrases.

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In many parts of Ulster, if your cow had a red, hot and swollen udder, you might call your vet and ask them to come and treat her felon, for this is the local term for mastitis: an infection of the mammary gland.

In counties Donegal & Tyrone, you might alternatively be reporting that this same cow has a case of weed.

Whilst in Leinster and Munster, it would be, she has started, and in the counties closer to Dublin, she would have blast.

In Co Galway, the poor cow would be said to be blown or blown up. In Co Tipperary, she’d have cruds, and in Co Cork, gargot.

It was difficult to ascertain if having two or more cases at the same time on a farm in Ulster would constitute a felony, but you never know.

Chest infection or cough

If your calf was suffering from a chest infection or cough, whether she had a draw, a blow or had a chill would very much depend on what part of Ireland you are in.

The same calf would have an impression in Co Sligo, would be lifting in Co Donegal, suffering founder in counties Derry & Tyrone and have a case of catarrh in Co Galway.

If you farm in a lowland area and in the summer, your cow starts passing red water; she may need treatment for Babesiosis: a blood infection carried by ticks.

Whilst red water is actually the most common name for this condition throughout Ireland, it’s interchangeable with Murrain.

In Connaught, they say red murrain/blood murrain, in Co Tipperary, it’s murns, whilst in Ulster, it’s murll, merle or mure.

Diarrhoea and constipation

Many will have heard of scour, a widely used term for diarrhoea, frequently seen in calves, foals and lambs.

While there are many variations of the term skitter used for this condition throughout Ireland, in counties Kildare & Dublin, farmers say the animal is suffering flux, and in Co Tyrone, I is gut murrl.

It follows then that the opposite of this condition; constipation, has a few colloquial names too. The widely used term is dry murrain, and in county Tyrone, we hear of dry mure.

In the summer, a farmer may find a few of his cattle with sore, teary eyes.

Pink eye is the phrase commonly used to describe this infection carried between beasts by flies.

In mid-Ulster, it’s known as forest disease, in co Galway it’s pearl eye, and they say the beast has one eye cold in Leinster.

Grass tetany and warts

Cattle grazing the first flush of spring grass are at risk of developing grass tetany. This can cause them to have tremors and can prove fatal.

Farmers will leave ‘lick’ buckets or blocks out in the grazing pastures to help prevent this.

In many parts of Ireland, this condition is also known as the staggers, and locally in Co. Westmeath, it is termed the starts.

If your cow developed unsightly growths or warts on her skin, in many areas of Ireland, she would be said to have a case of angle berries.

In Co Galway, this condition is also known as strawberry foot.


Similarly, if she developed circular patches of hair loss around her eyes or face, she could be suffering from the fungal infection known widely as ringworm.

In counties Laois & Offaly, they call this condition tethers or tetters. In Co Dublin, it’s scruff, scurvy in Co Galway and poc in Co. Tipperary.

There are also many different regional, traditional treatments for these conditions, including from folklore.

Next article

In the next article, we will look at cures such as  ‘turning the sod’ to treat hoof infections, hanging holly in barns ( female plants with berries) to prevent ringworm and feeding forge water for gripe.

Thanks to all the farmers and vets who contributed to this article.

See other articles in this series:

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