Nelore Cattle

The Nelore cattle (also called Nellore cattle) are a very beautiful breed of domestic cattle. They have great dissimilarities to the Bos taurus species, and are of the Bos indicus or Zebu species.

The Nelore cattle actually originated from the Ongole cattle which were originally brought to Brazil from India. The breed was named after the Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh state in India.

Currently, Brazil is the largest breeder of Nelore cattle. In the year of 1868, the first pair of Ongole cattle arrived in Brazil by ship at Salvador, Bahia. Manoel Ubelhart Lemgruber, from Rio de Janeiro Zoo.

Two more animals arrived there in 1878 from Hamburg Zoo. And 100 animals were imported from India in the 1960s.

And most of the Nelore cattle that are available today in Brazil were created from the lineages that were imported from India in the 1960s.

The Indubrasil or Indo-Brazilian was the favored breed of zebu in Brazil in the first decades of 20th century. But Nelore cattle become the primary and most favorite breed of beef cattle in Brazil from the 1960 onwards.

They became highly popular mainly because of their heat-resistance, hardiness and because it thrives on poor/low quality forage.

Today more than 80% of beef cattle in Brazil are either purebred or hybrid Nelore. And the breed was exported to many other countries such as Argentina, United States, Mexico, Paraguay, Central America, Venezuela and many other countries.

The Nelore herdbook was founded in 1875. Read more information about the breed below.

Nelore Cattle Full Information

The Nelore cattle are medium sized animals. Their most distinctive characteristic is the presence of a prominent ‘hump’ behind their neck. But there many other differences between the Nelore and the European cattle breeds.

Nelore cattle are generally of white color with a black skin, tail and muzzle. They have comparatively long legs than other cattle breeds which help them walk in water when grazing. They are usually horned, and a naturally polled strain is also available. They have short ears, and their ears are probably shortest of most Bos indicus types.

Nelore bulls have short sheaths, and the cows have small udders and short teats. Average body weight of the Nelore cows is around 450 kg. And the bulls on average weight up to 500 kg. [1]

Historical Background

Nelore cattle trace their ancestry back to the Zebu cattle brought to Brazil by the Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century. These cattle were well-suited to the tropical climate and played a vital role in Brazil’s agricultural economy.

Over time, the Nelore breed developed distinct characteristics due to selective breeding by Brazilian ranchers, aimed at improving the breed’s adaptability, meat quality, and overall productivity.

Physical Attributes

One of the notable characteristics of Nelore cattle is their physical appearance. They have a medium to large frame with a prominent hump over their shoulders. The hump, composed of fat and muscle tissue, helps them store energy reserves during periods of scarcity.

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Nelore cattle possess a sleek and short coat that varies in color, ranging from gray to white, with some individuals having shades of red or black. Their skin is thick, providing protection against heat, parasites, and other external elements commonly found in tropical regions.

Adaptability and Resilience

Nelore cattle are renowned for their exceptional adaptability to harsh environmental conditions. Their genetic makeup enables them to thrive in tropical and subtropical regions, where they are exposed to high temperatures, humidity, and parasites.

Their short coat and well-developed sweat glands help dissipate heat efficiently, allowing them to remain productive even in hot climates. Nelore cattle are also known for their resistance to diseases and ability to forage on low-quality pastures, making them highly cost-effective to rear.

Temperament and Behavior

The temperament of Nelore cattle is generally docile and calm, although individual variation exists. They are known for their gentle disposition, which makes them easier to handle and manage in both extensive and intensive farming systems.

Nelore cattle have also demonstrated good maternal instincts, being protective and nurturing towards their calves. Their calm demeanor and adaptability to different handling systems make them suitable for various cattle management practices.

Meat Quality and Productivity

Nelore cattle are primarily reared for their high-quality beef. The breed possesses excellent meat characteristics, including tenderness, marbling, and flavor. The intramuscular fat, or marbling, in Nelore beef is highly desirable, as it contributes to the meat’s juiciness and flavor.

Despite their lean appearance, Nelore cattle have the ability to deposit fat within the muscle tissue, resulting in well-marbled, flavorful beef. This unique trait has made Nelore beef popular both domestically and internationally.

In addition to meat quality, Nelore cattle demonstrate high reproductive efficiency and adaptability to different production systems. They have good fertility rates, and their ability to thrive on low-quality forage allows for cost-effective production.

Nelore cattle are often utilized in crossbreeding programs, where their genetics are combined with other breeds to enhance beef production traits in various regions.

Contribution to the Beef Industry

Nelore cattle play a significant role in the global beef industry, particularly in Brazil, where they are the predominant breed. Brazil, being the largest exporter of beef in the world, heavily relies on Nelore cattle for its meat production.

The adaptability, resilience, and meat quality of Nelore cattle have positioned Brazil as a major player in the international beef market. Nelore cattle are well-suited to extensive grazing systems, allowing ranchers to rear large herds on vast areas of pastureland.

Due to their adaptability, Nelore cattle have also been successfully introduced to other countries with similar climatic conditions. They have gained popularity in regions such as Australia, India, and parts of Africa, where their genetic traits can be leveraged to improve local beef production.

By introducing Nelore genetics through crossbreeding programs, these countries aim to enhance the resilience and productivity of their own cattle populations.

Furthermore, Nelore cattle have contributed to advancements in the field of animal breeding and genetics. The breed’s robustness and adaptability have been studied extensively, leading to the identification of genetic markers associated with disease resistance, heat tolerance, and meat quality traits.

This knowledge has facilitated the development of breeding programs focused on enhancing these desirable traits in Nelore and other cattle breeds, ultimately benefiting the global beef industry.

Future Prospects and Challenges

Looking ahead, Nelore cattle are poised to continue playing a significant role in the beef industry. As global demand for high-quality beef rises, Nelore’s meat characteristics and adaptability make it an attractive choice for both domestic consumption and export markets.

With ongoing advancements in genomics and selective breeding techniques, further improvements in meat quality and production efficiency can be achieved.

However, there are challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the sustainable development of Nelore cattle. One such challenge is the preservation of genetic diversity within the breed. As Nelore genetics become more widespread through crossbreeding, efforts must be made to maintain the breed’s distinct characteristics and prevent the loss of valuable traits.

Additionally, environmental sustainability is a growing concern in livestock production. While Nelore cattle are well-adapted to tropical environments, sustainable management practices should be implemented to minimize the environmental impact of large-scale Nelore farming operations. This includes responsible land use, water conservation, and measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.


The Nelore cattle are mainly used for meat production in Brazil. They are also a popular beef breed in some other countries. They are also good for draught purposes.

Special Notes

Nelore cattle are noted and well known for their hardiness, easy calving, heat-resistance and capability of thriving on poor quality forage. They can adapt almost all climates except very cold climates. They have natural resistance to various parasites and diseases, and are very resistant to high temperatures.

Nelore cows have a long and prolific reproductive life, pronounced mothering ability, and plenty of milk for their calves. The calves are very alert with an active behavior.

These animals are also noted for their efficiency of converting poor quality forages into high quality beef. They can also withstand long periods without water and they are highly resistant to bloating.

Today the breed is used for producing very high quality beef in Brazil and many other countries. However, review full breed profile of this breed in the chart below.

Breed NameNelore
Other NameNellore
Breed PurposeMainly meat
Special NotesStrong, hardy, fertile, resistance to diseases, tall
Breed SizeMedium
BullsUp to 500 kg
CowsAround 450 kg
Climate ToleranceAll Climates
Coat ColorMainly white
Milk YieldAverage
Country/Place of OriginIndia

Interesting Facts About Nelore Cattle

Here are some interesting facts about this beautiful cattle breed:

  1. Nelore cattle trace their ancestry back to the Zebu cattle brought to Brazil by the Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century. These cattle played a vital role in Brazil’s agricultural economy due to their adaptability to tropical conditions. Over time, selective breeding by Brazilian ranchers led to the development of Nelore cattle with distinct characteristics, aimed at enhancing their adaptability, meat quality, and overall productivity.
  2. Nelore cattle are highly adapted to tropical and subtropical climates, making them ideal for regions with high temperatures, humidity, and parasites. Their short coat and well-developed sweat glands enable them to efficiently dissipate heat, helping them withstand hot weather. Their thick skin provides protection against external elements commonly found in tropical regions, ensuring their resilience and ability to thrive in challenging environments.
  3. Nelore cattle possess a medium to large frame, with a prominent hump over their shoulders. The hump, composed of fat and muscle tissue, serves as an energy reserve during periods of scarcity. They exhibit a sleek and short coat, varying in color from gray to white, with some individuals having shades of red or black. These physical attributes, combined with their strong, sturdy build, contribute to their overall adaptability and resilience.
  4. Nelore cattle have shown remarkable resistance to various diseases and parasites, further contributing to their suitability for tropical environments. Their genetic makeup enables them to withstand common ailments prevalent in these regions, reducing the need for extensive medical intervention and minimizing production losses.
  5. Nelore cattle are known for their exceptional fertility rates and reproductive efficiency. The breed exhibits early maturity, allowing for early breeding and subsequent calving at regular intervals. High fertility rates contribute to increased productivity, making Nelore cattle an attractive choice for beef producers aiming to optimize their breeding programs.
  6. Nelore cows display strong maternal instincts, demonstrating care and protection towards their calves. They exhibit excellent nurturing behavior, ensuring the well-being and growth of their offspring. This maternal instinct is beneficial for the overall health and survival of the herd.
  7. Nelore cattle are generally docile and exhibit a calm temperament, making them easier to handle and manage. Their gentle disposition simplifies routine tasks such as feeding, milking, and veterinary procedures. This docility contributes to reduced stress levels, both for the animals and the individuals working with them.
  8. Nelore cattle possess remarkable foraging abilities, enabling them to thrive on low-quality pastures. They can extract nutrients efficiently from coarse forage, making them cost-effective to rear. Their grazing habits contribute to sustainable land management, as they can utilize grazing areas that are less suitable for other cattle breeds.
  9. Nelore cattle have been widely used in crossbreeding programs, where their genetics are combined with other breeds to enhance beef production traits. By introducing Nelore genetics, producers aim to improve adaptability, disease resistance, fertility, and meat quality in various breeds. This crossbreeding potential allows for the customization of herds to suit specific environmental and market demands.
  10. Nelore cattle are primarily bred for their high-quality beef. Despite their lean appearance, Nelore beef possesses excellent meat characteristics. It is known for its tenderness, juiciness, and rich flavor. Nelore beef exhibits desirable intramuscular fat, or marbling, which contributes to its succulence and enhances the overall eating experience.
  11. While Nelore cattle may appear lean, they have the unique ability to deposit fat within the muscle tissue. This trait sets them apart from other breeds and contributes to the marbling that enhances the flavor and tenderness of their meat. This intramuscular fat deposition ensures a superior eating quality, making Nelore beef a sought-after choice among consumers and culinary experts.
  12. Nelore cattle typically exhibit high carcass yield due to their efficient conversion of forage into meat. This characteristic is favorable for beef producers, as it maximizes the utilization of feed resources and ensures a higher percentage of meat per animal.
  13. Nelore cattle have a reputation for long and productive lives. Their genetic makeup, combined with their adaptability and disease resistance, contributes to their longevity. This longevity allows producers to have a sustained and productive breeding herd, reducing replacement costs and ensuring the continuity of high-quality genetics.
  14. Nelore cattle have gained international prominence and have been exported to various countries. The breed’s adaptability, disease resistance, and meat quality have made them attractive to beef producers worldwide. Countries such as Australia, India, and parts of Africa have introduced Nelore genetics into their cattle populations to enhance beef production in their respective regions.
  15. Nelore cattle exhibit significant genetic diversity, allowing for the development of specialized lines within the breed. This diversity ensures that different herds can be tailored to specific production goals and environmental conditions, further enhancing the breed’s adaptability and versatility.
  16. Continuous genetic selection and improvement programs have contributed to the enhancement of Nelore cattle. Through careful breeding, producers aim to improve desirable traits such as meat quality, adaptability, fertility, and disease resistance. Genetic advancements have facilitated the identification of markers associated with these traits, enabling more precise selection and breeding decisions.
  17. Nelore cattle excel in extensive grazing systems and are well-adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Their ability to thrive on native pastures and tolerate challenging climates makes them a valuable asset in sustainable beef production. They are particularly suited to extensive ranching systems, where they can utilize large areas of pastureland efficiently.
  18. Nelore cattle play a significant role in the economic prosperity of beef-producing regions, particularly in Brazil. The breed’s adaptability, high fertility rates, and meat quality contribute to increased productivity and profitability for ranchers. Nelore beef’s popularity in domestic and international markets ensures a steady demand and substantial economic returns for beef producers.
  19. The conservation of Nelore cattle genetics and the preservation of their distinct characteristics are important for maintaining the breed’s unique attributes. Efforts are underway to establish conservation programs and breed registries to ensure the preservation of purebred Nelore cattle. These initiatives safeguard the genetic diversity and long-term sustainability of the breed.
  20. Ongoing research and development initiatives focus on improving Nelore cattle through advanced breeding techniques, genomics, and nutritional advancements. By harnessing scientific knowledge, producers can optimize breeding programs, enhance productivity, and ensure continuous improvement of Nelore cattle.
  21. Nelore cattle’s adaptability and resilience contribute to sustainable livestock production. Their ability to thrive on low-quality forage reduces the pressure on arable land for feed production. Additionally, their disease resistance and minimal medical intervention reduce the use of antibiotics and other medications, promoting environmentally friendly practices.
  22. Nelore cattle hold a significant place in Brazil’s cultural heritage. The breed is deeply intertwined with the country’s history, traditions, and cuisine. The popularity of Nelore beef in Brazilian cuisine, such as the renowned Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), showcases the cultural significance of Nelore cattle and their contribution to the gastronomic identity of Brazil.
  23. Looking ahead, Nelore cattle are poised to maintain their prominence in the beef industry. With increasing global demand for high-quality and sustainable beef, Nelore’s unique traits and adaptability make it an attractive choice for both domestic consumption and export markets. Continued investment in research and development, genetic selection, and sustainable farming practices will further enhance the breed’s productivity, meat quality, and environmental resilience.

Best Tips for Raising Nelore Cattle

Successfully raising Nelore cattle requires a combination of knowledge, attention to detail, and proper management practices. Here we are trying to list some best tips for raising this beautiful cattle breed:

  1. Begin with a strong foundation by selecting Nelore cattle with desirable traits, including adaptability, fertility, meat quality, and disease resistance. Pay attention to conformation, genetic potential, and the breeder’s reputation when choosing breeding stock.
  2. Implement a genetic improvement program to enhance desirable traits in your Nelore herd. Utilize tools such as performance records, pedigree analysis, and genetic evaluations to make informed breeding decisions.
  3. Provide a balanced and nutritious diet to meet the specific nutritional requirements of Nelore cattle. Consult with a livestock nutritionist to develop a feeding program that includes high-quality forage, supplements, and mineral blocks.
  4. Implement proper pasture management techniques to optimize grazing resources. Rotate grazing areas to prevent overgrazing, promote forage regrowth, and reduce the risk of parasites.
  5. Ensure access to clean and fresh water at all times. Adequate water supply is essential for maintaining hydration, digestion, and overall herd health.
  6. Develop a comprehensive vaccination and deworming program in consultation with a veterinarian. Regularly vaccinate against common diseases and deworm the herd to prevent parasite infestations.
  7. Implement biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases within the herd. Quarantine new animals before introducing them to the main herd and practice proper hygiene and sanitation protocols.
  8. Provide adequate shelter to protect Nelore cattle from extreme weather conditions, such as excessive heat, cold, and rain. Adequate shade and shelter help reduce stress and promote overall well-being.
  9. Conduct regular health checks and monitor the overall well-being of the herd. Look for signs of illness, lameness, or nutritional deficiencies, and promptly address any health concerns.
  10. Invest in well-designed handling facilities to ensure safe and efficient cattle handling. Properly designed chutes, pens, and alleys minimize stress on both the animals and handlers.
  11. Plan and manage the breeding season to optimize fertility rates. Consider synchronization protocols and use reliable breeding soundness evaluations for bulls to maximize breeding success.
  12. Provide appropriate care and supervision during the calving season. Ensure clean and comfortable calving areas, assist with difficult births if necessary, and monitor newborn calves for health issues.
  13. Pay close attention to calf nutrition to support healthy growth and development. Provide access to high-quality colostrum, gradually introduce solid feed, and implement a weaning strategy based on calf age and condition.
  14. Maintain detailed records of herd health, breeding history, vaccinations, and performance data. Accurate record keeping facilitates informed decision-making and enables better herd management.
  15. Regularly weigh your cattle and perform body condition scoring to assess their growth, body condition, and nutritional status. This information helps adjust feeding programs and identify any health concerns.
  16. Implement practices that promote environmental sustainability and minimize the herd’s impact on the ecosystem. Proper waste management, water conservation, and responsible land use contribute to sustainable cattle farming practices and support the long-term health of the environment.
  17. Ensure that your pastures are properly fenced to prevent cattle from straying or coming into contact with potential hazards. Regularly inspect and maintain fences to keep them secure and in good condition.
  18. Schedule routine hoof care to prevent hoof-related issues. Trim hooves regularly to maintain proper hoof health and prevent lameness.
  19. Regularly assess the reproductive health and fertility of your breeding bulls through a breeding soundness evaluation program. This ensures that only healthy and fertile bulls are used for breeding, increasing the chances of successful pregnancies.
  20. Regularly assess the body condition of your cattle to ensure they are in an optimal condition for breeding and production. Adjust feeding programs accordingly to maintain an ideal body condition score.
  21. Minimize stress factors for your cattle, as stress can negatively impact their health and productivity. Avoid sudden changes in diet, handle cattle calmly and gently, and provide a low-stress environment.
  22. Stay updated on the latest advancements and best practices in Nelore cattle management. Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to beef cattle production to stay informed about industry trends and innovations.
  23. Establish relationships with experienced Nelore cattle breeders, veterinarians, and agricultural experts. Collaboration and consultation with knowledgeable individuals can provide valuable insights and guidance in managing your Nelore herd effectively.

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