Murray Grey Breed Characteristics

 

General Appearance

Murray Grey cattle should be of moderate size with tabletop straight backs and good muscle expression. Animals should be well balanced with good length, width, spring of rib, and smoothness. Bulls should be masculine with a large hump on their neck, a tight sheath, and significant scrotal development. Females should be feminine, but powerful, with good rib capacity, width through the hips and pins, and tight udder attachments. Excess skin through the brisket and sheath area is undesirable. Murray Greys are to have sound feet and legs. Cow hocks and sickle hocks are not desirable. Cattle should have short, strong pasterns and sound hooves. Animals should walk freely with the hind feet stepping in the footsteps of the front feet. This promotes soundness, longevity, and helps animals cover large amounts of ground.

Color/Pigment

Murray Greys are any solid shade of grey (called silver, dun, dark, or black). Some white on the underbelly is permissible, but animals should not have white marks on any other part of the body. Rarely, Murray Greys will have small, circular patches of off-colored hair on the body called birth marks. Birth marks are never white and are not discriminated against. Murray Greys also commonly have a dappled pattern under the coat. This is normal and is not cause for discrimination.  Skin should have dark pigment. Murray Greys should have dark colored muzzles, eyes, udders, and hooves. Animals are not disqualified if they have pink skin on the underbelly behind the navel, however, pink pigmentation is highly discouraged and is not allowed on any other part of the body nor are white hooves.

Head

Murray Greys have a refined, attractive head and are naturally polled with no scurs. Murray Greys tend to pass on the polled trait to 90% of their progeny when bred to horned cattle. Both sexes should have a strong, broad face and muzzle, indicative of the ability to consume large amounts of forage.

Disposition

Murray Greys are gentle, easy to handle cattle with a kind, quiet eye. This assures optimal pH levels which lead to excellent meat color, taste, and tenderness. This also helps them adjust quickly when moved into a new pasture or feedlot, so they can get on with their job of eating and building beef. Animals that are high headed or aggressive should not be registered.

Calving Ease/ Hardiness

Murray Greys typically have moderate sized, easily born calves that thrive and grow quickly. It is highly discouraged for calves to be born under 60 lbs or over 90 lbs. Murray Greys are hardy and quickly adapt and thrive in all types of environments and climates. They handle snow and desert equally well and have been scientifically proven to handle heat better than some other English breeds.

Maternal Ability

Murray Grey females are noted for their strong mothering instincts and milking ability. They are intelligent cattle that know to protect their calves from predators while still remaining gentle towards their human handlers. Females should repeatedly wean off calves that are at least 50% of their own body weight. They have desirable longevity and should stay in the herd producing good calves until they are 15 years old or older.

 

Fertility

Murray Grey bulls and females are both noted for their early maturity and high fertility. Bulls are noted for their ability to cover high numbers of females in a season. Females breed back quickly while maintaining their conditioning. Breeders are discouraged from keeping hard breeders in their seedstock herd.

 

Carcass & Efficiency

Murray Greys have exceptional carcasses. They have dominated steer and carcass competitions all over the world since the 1970s. They have lean meat, marble evenly, and are a preferred breed for use in raising Grass Fed Beef because they are one of the only beef breeds that will marble on grass alone. Murray Greys do equally well when grain fed and are known to yield higher than the average American beef steer. They have an ideal fat cover – thick enough to keep the meat moist, but having less waste when compared to other breeds. Murray Greys finish economically on grass or in the feedlot. Steers have repeatedly been recorded to finish on half the food and in half the time over other breeds. Mature animals will typically eat 25% to 50% less food than many other breeds and still maintain good condition. Murray Grey breeders are highly encouraged to participate in ultrasound and DNA testing to maintain and strengthen the breed’s excellent carcass qualities.

 

 

HISTORY OF THE MURRAY GREYS

Developed almost by accident, the Murray Grey is Australia’s first cattle breed. In 1905, Australia was struggling out of an extensive drought period. Along the banks of the Murray River in Southeastern Australia, Peter Sutherland, a purebred Aberdeen Angus breeder since 1886, reluctantly purchased a herd of Shorthorn cattle to begin to build back his drought-depleted cattle herd.

One particular white or light roan Shorthorn cow was kept as a house cow and mated to several different Aberdeen Angus bulls. By 1917 she had produced 12 unusually colored grey calves. Mr. Sutherland felt it a disgrace to have the grey cattle among his beloved Angus, but his wife, Eva, liked the greys and persisted in keeping them, calling them Mulberries. These odd cattle were found to grow unusually quickly and were superior converters of feed. 

In 1929, Peter Sutherland passed on and Eva could not maintain the ranch, so she sold the grey cattle to a cousin, Helen Sutherland, who then continued to systematically breed the original 12 calves; 4 bulls and 8 cows. Helen began a strict breeding program based on breeding the best to the best, and these cattle were the beginnings of a new breed of cattle.

As the years went by, neighbors started noticing that the greys seemed to do better than the Angus and in 1939, William (Cleaver) Gadd, elder brother of Mervyn Gadd, went to Thologolong to purchase a Black Angus bull for the Gadd Brothers’ commercial cattle herd. While Cleaver was at Thologolong, he saw an impressive Grey yearling bull in a lot with Black Angus yearlings.

Being in need of an older bull in order to service their relatively large herd of commercial females, Cleaver was reluctant to purchase the yearling-age bull. However, Keith Sutherland offered the young bull for the price typically quoted for a steer, to lessen the perceived risk to the Gadd herd, if Cleaver bought a two-year-old bull as well, for the regular asking price of a mature sire. Both parties agreed to the deal, and that day, Cleaver Gadd walked the silver bull and the black bull 17 miles to the property owned by the Gadd Family, known as The Glen.

Mervyn was delighted by his brother’s surprise purchase, and set about to use The Glen’s first Murray Grey bull for a major breeding program. Mr. Gadd recalls in his memoirs that the grey bull never had an official name, but he was always a reliable, prolific sire, and provided The Glen with its foundation herd of Murray Grey cattle.

Other local cattlemen were soon attracted to the Greys because of their size, appearance, superior feed conversion, and carcass merit. By 1962 there were more than fifty breeders in Australia. These cattle producers chose the name “Murray Grey” for their cattle breed, because of its color and from its beginnings along the Murray River. The Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society of Australia was formed in 1964 to archive the pedigrees and to promote the breed. Soon, Murray Grey's were in high demand from butchers who saw the quality in the beef produced. Butchers began to pay a premium price for the Greys because of their consistent high cutability and less waste. Murray Greys began to win carcass competitions in the early 1970's and have continued to dominate the steer and carcass classes in Australia and around the world.

In 1969, three importers, New Breeds Industries, Inc., Murray Grey USA (Lubbock, Texas), and Firetree Production Stock, of Kentucky, brought the first Murray Grey semen into the United States.  In 1972 the first live animals, a bull calf and yearling heifer, were imported from Australia to the USA. Most expansion of the breed in the United States has been through importing semen and embryos from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

In the United States Murray Greys are increasingly preferred by cattle producers. You can find Grey cattle in all climates and environments, from the cold, harsh North to the hot, humid South. They are a favorite breed of cow/calf producers and feedlots alike because of their mild, gentle disposition. Murray Grey cattle are one of the few breeds that have been scientifically proven to marble on grass alone, without grain feeding, and have the highest known genetic tendency for tender beef. Murray Greys do not deposit a lot of inter-muscular or seam fat in their carcasses, and are preferred by an increasingly health-conscious public as well.

Today Murray Greys are the second largest beef breed in Australia and one of the fastest growing beef breeds in the United States.

This photo is of one of the breed’s famous cows, Thologolong Boadicea; born in 1953.Thologolong Boadicea has nine recorded calves. These include four of the most influential bulls in the breed’s history with over 600 recorded progeny between them -Thologolong Caesar, Thologolong Snowman, Michaelong Roman Invasion, and Michaelong Chocolate Soldier