Neat stock is a livestock term that may have originated in New England, and was used as early as 1674 in New Hampshire and 1782 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Neat stock was often used as payment and barter.
According to Mark E. Dixon (see comments) of one of his ancestors, John Cass, of Hampton, Rockingham, NH, in his will dated 4 Mar 1674… “Item. I Give unto my Daughter Elizabeth twenty pounds to be paid by my two sons Joseph and Samuell in Corne & neat Cattle ten pounds to be paid within one yeare after they enter upon their Lands and the other ten pounds the Next year after to be payd in the same specie.”
28 December 1782. Providence Rhode Island, Providence Gazette. To be SOLD.
FOUR Lots of Land, containing 100 Acres each, lying in the Town of Windsor, in Berkshire County, State of Massachusetts….Cash, neat Stock, or West-India Goods, will be received in Payment….GIDEON FRANKLIN. Windsor, Dec. 25, 1782.
Most early references to “Neat stock” or “Neat cattle” refer specifically to oxen or heifers, and seems to exclude milking (Milch) cows. Even up to the 1923 the Town of New Boston when listing farm animals and improvements, separated the cows from the neat stock, i.e. ” 3 horses, 2 cows, 1 neat stock, 140 hens, etc.”
In some locations outside of New England, “neat stock” was a term used for any type of cattle. A related term, “Live Stock” is defined as neat cattle, horses, mules, asses, sheep and goats.