Nero the Bull
Rachel Foster

Miniature Zebu (Nadudana) Cattle

Miniature Zebu cattle originated in Sri Lanka, they are known to be one of the world’s oldest cattle breeds with their ancestry being traced back to 6000BC. They are true miniature breeds having evolved in nature without human intervention. They are now considered an endangered species in their homeland.

In 2008 2 unrelated bulls and 2 heifers were imported into New Zealand from a stud in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, with their bloodlines having been imported from the USA originally. As the breeding and grading up program began, numbers in New Zealand of purebred and graded up animals total less than 30 today.

Miniature Zebu cattle are very easy-care for, they are foragers, pretty much-eating anything, and can do very well on rough pasture and extra well on lush pasture. They do not require high fencing or yards. They have a high resistance to disease and tolerate extreme heat. In very cold temperatures they will make use of the shelter. They are a slow-maturing breed, calves are small so calving is usually trouble-free, and cows are very protective mothers. Calves are often born with lax tendons, so front legs appear bent at birth but straighten within a few days. On soft ground, adults may require hoof trimming.

Their breed standard states they should not exceed 42inches (107cm) at the shoulder. There is a large hump in bulls, just in front of the shoulders, this is not always highly developed in cows. They are a horned breed and have a moderately developed dewlap. Their ears are pointed, not pendulous and their tail is long and slender, whip-like. They can be any colour ranging from black, red, brown-grey, and white and can be brindled or spotted.

They are aesthetically pleasing to have in a paddock, they have a high conservation value now they are endangered in their native Sri Lanka. Due to their size, they have a much lower impact on farmland than larger breeds of cattle. They are fine-boned so they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio compared to traditional beef breeds. They have been proven to be 25-30% more feed efficient. Their milk contains the A2 milk protein. They are highly valued in the Hindu religion and their dung has many uses ranging from plant pot making to fuel.

There are only a handful of breeders currently in New Zealand building up a sustainable breeding population, heifers are all kept for breeding purposes, and there are occasionally bulls for sale upwards of $5000 each for buyers who are willing to start their own grading up program.

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