It seems everywhere we drive outside the city limits we see urban sprawl.  Because of our growing population, the spreading out of city residents and services to the countryside is turning good farm and ranch land into strip malls and housing projects.  Would-be farmers and ranchers are moving out of the cities on to small five- to 10-acre ranchettes.

These diminished acreages have lead to the need for a smaller, more productive breed of cattle.  Miniature Zebu is the breed to meet this need.  On five acres, a rancher can raise (2) two large, full-size beef cattle.  But five acres can accommodate up to (10) ten Miniature Zebu.  Sales of Miniature Zebu are on the rise.  Zebu cattle eat less and, therefore, cost less to feed; and they are less destructive to pasture.  Their diminutive size makes them easier to handle.

Miniature Zebu differ from other small cattle in that they are a natural breed.  They are not just bred to be tinier and tinier each generation or aren’t just the results of a breeding-gone-bad.  This breed is actually one of the oldest known cattle breeds, dating back to 6000 BC.  They are believed to have originated in Southern India or Sri Lanka, where they are referred to as Nadudana cattle, or “small cattle” in Hindu.  Miniature Zebu is of the “Bos primigenius indicus” of the Bovine family, whereas their ancestors, the larger breed of Brahman cattle, are “Bos indicus”.  A few of these were imported in the 1920’s for zoological gardens in this country, and from there the breed has flourished in the United States.

Aside from its size, one of the distinguishing characteristics is a well-developed hump, especially on the mature bull.  They have the Brahman look except a miniature zebu’s ears are erect rather than pendulous.  Both bulls and cows have horns of moderate size.  In comparison to conventional breeds of cattle, Miniature Zebu cattle are slow to mature.  It appears that the smaller the animals, the older they are when they first breed.  It is normal for a heifer to give birth to her first calf at around 30 to 36 months of age.  This is one of the reasons that they are relatively rare in the United States.

Miniature Zebu are a hearty, disease resistant breed of cattle.  This is a tropical breed that loves hot weather and will lie in full sun on the hottest days of the year.  On windy or cold days they prefer to spend their time inside a shelter.  As long as you furnish them with proper housing in the winter months, they will do fine.

Miniature cattle are much easier on the land, pasture, fencing and equipment and are considerably safer for children to be around.  They are also easier and safer to confine for veterinarian care.  Expensive fencing and heavy-duty equipment is not needed.  Generally, these animals are not a primary food-producing breed, which means they are not generally used for production of beef.  However, one of the advantages to raising Miniature Zebu cattle, if meat is your goal, is that you are looking at a 600-pound animal that after butchering will yield about 60%.  That’s 350 to 400 pounds of lean beef--just the right amount to fill the family freezer.

A Miniature Zebu breeder has up to six different markets for their newborn calves:  pets, beef, breeding animals, mini milkers, junior rodeo stock and show cattle.   About 70% of the Miniature Zebu sold today are being sold as pets.  Many of the professional couples that are moving out of the cities and occupying those three- to five-acre mini ranchettes are looking for four-legged lawn mowers. You do not own Miniature Zebus, they own you.  Kay Byerly of Dry Creek Farm in Terrell, Texas put it the best I have ever heard, “Oh, my goodness, I feel sorry for anyone who does not own Zebu…they are such a joy!”

Miniature Zebu cattle can make excellent milking cows.  The normal Jersey or Holstein milk cow can produce up to five gallons of milk per day, more than the average family can use.  Your mini-milker, a Zebu, will produce a gallon of milk that is very high in butterfat; and the quality of milk cannot be beat.

Several rodeo outfitters are now carrying a string of junior rodeo bulls and feel that the only true rodeo bulls are the Brahman like Miniature Zebu.  They feel that the six- to 12-year-old-rodeo enthusiasts prefer full-grown Miniature Zebu bulls to calves from full-size cattle. Aside from the rodeo uses, Miniature Zebu cattle are also the ideal show cattle for the younger 4H and FAA participants.  They are small in size and easy to handle.  Miniature Zebus are an excellent exhibition breed of cattle.  They cohabit well with other animals because they don’t eat as much as the large breeds and are easier to handle and care for.  

Some of the other characteristics promoted by breeders are that this breed has a long life span, living 20-plus years with good care.  They are intelligent, resistant to flies due to their very active sub-dermal (under the skin) twitching muscles.  They have functional sweat glands that aid in cooling, which makes them more heat tolerant.

In the early 1990’s a group of enthusiasts met to establish the International Miniature Zebu Association whose registry would gather and maintain the studbook of this breed.  Under the registration guidelines to be classified as miniature, the mature height cannot exceed 42 inches, but most Zebu breeders strive to raise cattle in the 34” to 38” range.  Mature cows will weigh 300 to 400 pounds with the bulls ranging from 400 to 600 pounds.  Although gray is the most common, colors range from black, red, spotted or steel gray to almost pure white.  In mature bulls, the neck shoulders and hump may be nearly black. 

If you have never seen a newborn Miniature Zebu calf, you don’t know what you are missing.  They are so extremely petite, almost fawn-like.  Newborn calves are 16 to 18 inches tall and weigh 18 to 22 pounds.  The bottom line is we raise Miniature Zebu cattle because we love them, not just to make a profit.  Purchase animals that you like and want to have, not for the purpose of just making money.

If you want to know more about Miniature Zebu cattle or to find a Zebu breeder near you, contact:  International Miniature Zebu Association at (308) 665-3919, or visit www.IMZA.name.

Little Cows for Small Farms and Ranches

By Lonnie Hoover
As printed in the November 2007 issue of Rare Breeds Journal


Throughout this nation the miniature cattle industry is growing at a rate of around 30% a year.  The number one reason behind this increase is the shrinking of tracts of land.  Historically, the first cattle in the United States were small in size, only to be bred larger during the 1940’s and 1950’s.  In the early days of the American cattle industry, huge operations such as the King Ranch of Texas had all the land they wanted and the demand for beef was growing.  The soldiers returning from World War II wanted steaks.  The increased the demand for meat, brought about the development of much larger animals that produced bigger yields of beef per carcass.
Busted

By Lonnie Hoover
As printed in the November 2007 issue of the Rare Breeds Journal


During the 2004 State Fair of Texas, I took a picture of a Miniature Zebu Bull standing beside a full size Brahman Bull (the Zebu was owned by Roger Maxwell of Jonesboro, LA).  My wife carries a copy of the photo to show it to whomever she is talking to about our Zebu.  The other day she came home telling of how upset a lady got and accused us of raising dwarf Brahman cattle.

So, I sent (pretend) the topic to the "MYTH BUSTERS" on the Discovery Channel, and here are the findings.
MINIATURE ZEBU CATTLE:
In an article by Marleen Felius of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, she wrote "Zebu cattle most likely originated from Asian Aurochs (Bos Namadicus), during the process of domestication, which took place as far back as 6500-6000 B.C."  Miniature Zebu cattle are one of the oldest known cattle breeds.  They are believed to have originated in Southern India or Sri Lanka, where they are referred to as Andean cattle, or "small cattle" in Hindu.  Miniature Zebu is one of the "Bosprimigenius indicus" of the Bovine family.
Miniature Zebus differ from other small cattle in that they are a natural breed.  They are not just bred to be tinier and tinier each generation and are not the results of a breeding-gone-bad.

BRAHMAN CATTLE:
From "A Guide to Cows," written by John Pukite: Mr Pukite lists the orgin of the Brahman as the "USA, developed from Indian breeds." He goes on to say "the American Brahman started from only four breeds; the Gir, the Krankrej, the Krishna Valley and the Ongole (all are regions of India).  Normally the cows were sacred and could not be exported for consumption.  The British government, ignoring the local customs, presented a few of these cattle as a gift to the United States government in 1854.  During the next 50 years, the English allowed more cattle to be exported.  The Brahman became the first developed American cattle breed and a Brahman Society was formed in 1924.

NOW LETS REVIEW THE FACTS:
Miniature Zebu Cattle are known to exist as far back as 6500-6000 B.C.

Brahman cattle, an American Breed, developed around 1850-1900 from imported Zebu stock.

When you look at a Miniature Zebu, you are looking at a natural breed.  When you look at a Brahman, you are looking at a giant Miniature Zebu, a breeding gone bad.

MYTH BUSTED
Miniature Zebu in Austria
By Lonnie Hoover
As printed in the March/April 2007 issue of the Rare Breeds Journal


This saga began in June, 2004, when Dean Shocker, an IMZA Board Member, received the following e-mail from Alfons Maier, Graz, Austria:

"I would very much like to contact you for getting information about your experiences with the Zebu cows.  Would it be possible to send me fotos of them?  I send you hereby fotos of our Zebus.  I would be very interested if you have the same race.  Kind regards, Alfons Maier."

Dean then forwarded the message to other IMZA members and the rest, as we say, is history.

By a sheer stroke of luck, my wife who is a Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) cat show judge, had been invited to judge a show in Vienna, Austria, in October, 2004.  We thought this must have been divine intervention because we had already planed to do some serious sight-seeing while we were in Austria.  We contacted Mr. Maier via e-mail and he said he would be happy for us to come to his ranch and see his cattle.

Neither my wife nor I speak a word of German, but again we were very lucky to have one of our fellow cat fanciers who live in Graz, Juergen Steinbrenner, act as an interpreter.  Mr. Maier was the ultimate host.  When we arrived he had homemade coffee cake and tea, complete with a homemade liqueur type brandy that the Austrians put in their tea.  Not wanting to appear to be an ungrateful American, I drank the tea, complete with the brandy.  Actually it was not bad, kind of like our moonshine.  We were also treated to some German Folk Music, as another hobby of Mr. Maier's was being a player in a German Band.

Mr. Maier's "real job" is a Pumpkin Seed Oil dealer.  Pumpkin seeds are a popular commodity in Graz.  The seeds are used in salads, as well as crushed and used in main dishes.  Alfons stated that the oil could only be found in New York and San Francisco.  He stated that he is currently working to market the oil in more states.

Mr. Maier had a very beautiful ranch tucked away in the rolling hills of Austria.  His extended family included his parents living in the same house, which seems to be a custom in that country. 

There were four Zebus on the ranch, two reddish bulls and two white heifers with black spots.  The older bull was very aggressive, apparently not liking strangers entering his territory!  The older bull was about 40" tall and had very good conformation.  The two heifers were about 36-38" tall; I would add them to my herd in a minute!!

Mr Maier purchased his four Zebus from Mr. Johann Muster for 3,100 Euro (around $4,000 dollars).  Mr. Muster has over 70 Zebu with both Austrian and German bloodlines.  Check out Mr. Musters Zebu on his web site at www.zebu.at he has a beautiful breeder bull (white with black spots).  None of the Zebu in Austria are registered, that we are aware of.

We were told that there are 12-15 Zebu breeders in the province of Styria, with around 120-150 zebu in their herds.  Apparently the predominant colors are red, black, white, and white with black spots.  We saw no gray Zebu in their herds.
Little Cows for Small Farms and Ranches, by Lonnie Hoover
Busted, by Lonnie Hoover
Zebu in Austria, by Lonnie Hoover
If you have Miniature Zebu Cattle Articles you would like to see it displayed on this page, contact IMZA.
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Last Updated:  09/29/14