History of the Murray Grey breed
Developed almost by accident in the Upper Murray valley on the New South Wales/Victoria border of Australia, the Murray Grey is regarded as Australia’s own breed.
Murray Greys are renowned as easy care versatile cattle producing choice quality beef for a variety of markets and discerning consumers.
The first grey calves were born at Thologolong, the stud of the Sutherland family, in the early years of the 20th century. The offspring of a white or light roan Shorthorn cow, kept as a house cow, and mated to a succession of Angus bulls, she produced 12 of these unusually coloured calves. Kept originally for their unusual colouring and firstly known as Mulberries, these odd cattle were found to grow unusually quickly and were superior converters of feed.
In the 1920’s a visitor to the property, Helen Player, was taken by the unusual cattle, she preferred to call them as the ‘Goldens’ Eventually marrying one of the Sutherland boys, Keith, she nurtured these cattle and the herd continued to grow, until the drought of 1945, when the Goldens along with Angus and Shorthorn herds were sent away for grazing to escape the drought, only eight of her “Goldens survived.
Also in the 1930’s a notable Angus breeder, Cleaver Gadd came to buy Angus bulls from Thologolong and was persuaded to take a Grey bull as well, for the price of a steer. Cleaver and his brother Mervyn dissolved their partnership soon after and Mervyn retained both the Homestead “The Glen’ and also the Grey bull. As the grey bulls’ calves showed some promise the next year he was put to 30 good Angus heifers as a purely commercial venture. It was late in the 1940’s when it was gradually realised that these Grey progeny were something special. When they topped the Newmarket sales with a record price it was decided they should have a name. It was suggested that as they came from the Murray region and they were grey coloured that they were Murray Greys, and the name stuck.
The Australian Murray Grey Society was founded in 1960 to register the cattle of several interested commercial breeders and administer the breed. Murray Grey steers and carcases have won all the major carcase competitions throughout the country and dominate the taste test competitions. Renowned for their ability to ‘marble’ and without excess subcutaneous fat, the breed has become popular for both grass fed and feed lot production of beef for the Japanese and Asian market and for domestic use, in Australia known as ‘supermarket’ beef.
In the first half of 1970 a small number of interested cattlemen from New Zealand visited Australia to check out reports that had been made about these new breed of cattle called Murray Greys. A meeting was held in July 1970 in Palmerston North and the New Zealand Grey Cattle Society was formed, based mainly on the importation of Tasmanian Grey cattle. A further Society called the Murray Grey Society was formed but in July 1972 it was decided to join the two Societies as one. In October 1971 the first shipment of cattle from Australia to arrive for 90 years arrived, comprising of Murray Greys. Earlier shipments of Murray Greys imported by Mr D.K Mackenzie had by diverting them through Tasmania.
More cattle were imported but a great number were bred up through the grades by using pure bred Murray Grey bulls over approved Angus and their subsequent female descendants. The membership in December 1974 was 325 members and steadily increasing. Today there are around a quarter of that number.