Murray Grey

Murray Grey
Murray Grey cows and a calf in snow, Walcha NSW
A silver grass-fed Murray Grey heifer and sheep

Murray Grey is a breed of Australian polled beef cattle that was developed in the upper Murray River valley on the New South Wales /Victorian border. They have evolved into a versatile breed that does well in a wide range of environments and produces top quality carcases.



The Murray Grey breed was developed from an initial chance mating of a black Aberdeen Angus bull and a roan Shorthorn cow in 1905 during the Federation drought. The resulting thirteen dun-grey calves from these matings were kept as curiosities and then bred on the Thologolong property along the Murray River in New South Wales by Peter and Ena Sutherland.[1]

These unusually coloured cattle grew quickly, were good converters of feed and produced quality carcases. Local cattlemen soon became interested in the greys and began breeding them. The first larger-scale commercial herds were established in the 1940s. In the 1960s several grey cattle breeders were selling them as a commercial enterprise and the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society was formed to register the cattle and to administer the breed. There are Murray Grey registries in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In New Zealand Murray Greys have been favoured because of their resistance to Facial eczema which is a problem in other cattle breeds.[2]

In 1963 negotiations were made to have the similar Tasmanian Grey beef cattle accepted into the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society, but it was not until 1981 that the two organizations combined.

Greyman cattle were developed in Queensland in the 1970s, specifically to suit the Queensland environment, by combining Murray Grey and Brahman breeds. Cattle breeders in the northern and western regions of Australia are increasingly using Murray Grey genetics to cross with Bos Indicus cattle to improve fertility, docility and carcase quality. Murray Greys are the third largest breed in Australia and because of their superior marbling and carcase traits, are in strong demand for meat exports to Asian countries.

The Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society performance records the herd using the internationally recognized Breedplan for monitoring growth, milk and carcase quality.[3]

On 11 January 2011 a Murray Grey cow was swept 95 kilometres away by the flood waters that raced through a property owned by Veronica Nutley, at Patrick Estate, near Lowood in the Brisbane Valley. The cow, Danette was found three days later bobbing along and towed through mangroves to shore. She had somehow dodged the currents, obstacles and sharks during her marathon journey. She was identified by her National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) ear tag and returned to her owner. The cow's epic journey has been the subject of an e-book, Patty the Wonder Cow: The Cow Who Swam Through a Monsoon by Karen Jackman.[4]

Breed characteristics


Murray Grey cattle are of a moderate size, possess sound structure and have good walking ability. Murray Grey bulls will usually weigh 817 to 1,135 kilograms (1,800-2,500 lbs); cows normally weigh 500-700 kg. They are a true medium-framed animal that can maintain body condition easily, without consuming large amounts of forage.

Calving ease

Murray Grey calves are small when they are born and quick to gain their feet. Calves grow quickly and are adaptable to all climates. Cows are heavy milk producers with good dark udders and teats.


Murray Greys are naturally polled, which is a dominant characteristic that is passed on to their progeny.


Murray Greys are docile cattle to work with. The cows are protective of young calves, though.


Hair colour ranges from very light silver to chocolate or dun grey; a few animals are even black but the majority are silver to a silvery-dun color. This colouring is very dominant, so when crossed with another breed, the colour is grey or silver (light grey). Their skin has a dark pigmentation, which helps prevent cancer eye (ocular squamous cell carcinoma), photosensitivity reactions and sunburned udders. They have performed well in snow country and in a trial which was undertaken at a commercial feedlot between December 2002 and June 2003 to determine the effect of high heat load on performance and carcase characteristics when fed a high energy diet for 165-183 days. In this heat stress trial they out performed the other trialled breeds by producing the highest average daily weight gains over this period.[5] Their superior performance in this trial was attributed to their lighter coloured coats.

Carcase qualities

The Murray Grey is known world-wide for the economically important traits of calving ease, feed efficiency, and carcase quality. Traditional butchers prefer Murray Grey beef as its consistent quality and tenderness can be relied upon.

Murray Greys produce marbled beef carcases with intramuscular seam fat of the type that is preferred in Japan and other Asian markets.

In 1967 three carcases were shipped from Australia to the Smithfield Show in the UK where they finished first, second and third in the Commonwealth carcase competition.[6] In Australia Murray Greys have dominated hoof and carcase competitions for many years.[7]

The Murray Grey breed was the largest represented breed at the 2008 Calgary Stampede Carcase Competition. A Murray Grey steer was declared the Grand Champion Carcase there for the second consecutive year.[8]

In 2008 or the first time in the history of the Midland Bull Test and sale in Columbus, Montana, a Murray Grey bull scored a perfect 10 on the genetic test for marbling and a near perfect 9 on the genetic test for tenderness. No bull of any breed has ever performed so well before.[9]


Murray Grey cattle, embryos and semen have been exported to Canada, New Zealand, South America, the United Kingdom and United States. Murray Grey cattle have also been accepted into the South African Registrar of Livestock Improvement’s books.[10] In Paraguay Murray Grey cattle have been used in crossbreeding programs involving Zebu and Charolais cattle. The Zebu and Charolais cattle there lacked the dark skins and early maturing traits of the Murray Greys. This crossbreeding program improved the fertility, calving ease and weight gains of the progeny produced there.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Beef Cattle - Breeding and Management, W.A. Beattie, Popular Books,1990
  2. ^ McIntyre, A., M., & I., Murray Greys, the commercial cattlemans breed, New Zealand Beef Cattle Society, Palmerson North
  3. ^ Group Breedplan Evaluation
  4. ^ Metcalf, Fran. "Miracle cow keeps kids' hopes afloat". The Courier-Mail. News Limited. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Effect of Genotype on Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Summer-Inducted Feedlot Cattle" by Y. SAKAGUCHI and J.B. GAUGHAN: [1]
  6. ^ Friend, John B., "Cattle of the World", Blandford Press, Dorset, 1978
  7. ^ Stephens, M (et al.), Handbook of Australian Livestock, Australian Meat & Livestock Export Corporation, 2000 (4th ed), ISBN 1 74036 2160
  8. ^ Murray Grey Annual, 2008, Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society
  9. ^ Meeting the needs of the American beef producer & consumer Retrieved 2008-12-15
  10. ^ Murray Grey News, December 2009
  11. ^ Murray Grey Annual, 2009, Australia's adaptable breed in Paraguay p.16
  • Stephens, M (et al.), Handbook of Australian Livestock, Australian Meat & Livestock Export Corporation, 2000 (4th ed), ISBN 1 74036 2160

External links

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