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A Brief History of the Breed

Murray Grey cows on pasture
Courtesy Sharon Virtue Hillside Acres, Sweet Home, OR

According to the Australian legend, the first Murray Grey was born on the Thologolong property of Peter Sutherland in New South Wales in 1905, to a light roan Shorthorn cow and an Aberdeen Angus bull. The legend goes on to recount how this one cow gave birth to 12 off color calves, from which Mrs. Helen Sutherland, cousin to Peter, developed the breed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the breed actually originated throughout Australia as ranchers used “blue roan” bulls on their “blue roan” females. Regardless, of the real origins, the Murray Grey cattle in Australia gained a reputation for high quality beef and by the 1950s, butchers were paying a premium for them. The Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society of Australia was formed in 1964 to archive the pedigrees and to promote the breed.

In the late 1960s, American cattlemen were desperate to find larger, more efficient animals than those which the purebred Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn producers were offering at the time. To fill this need, American stockmen imported many dual-purpose draft and dairy breeds from Europe and the Murray Greys from Australia. The first Murray Grey semen was imported into the US in 1969 and the first live animals followed in 1970. The American Murray Grey Association was founded in September of 1971.

The early Murray Grey breeders in the United States resisted the industry trend to select only for frame size and worked to retain the temperament, calving ease, feed efficiency and carcass quality for which the cattle were so highly regarded in Australia and New Zealand. After an initial rush of interest in the 1970s, the smaller frame size and lighter carcass weights pushed the Murray Grey breed to the sidelines of the American cattle industry. A dedicated group of Murray Grey breeders across the country defied the industry trends and continued to breed the easy calving, efficient, cattle with excellent eating qualities.

During the last decade of the 20th century, breeders began producing Murray Greys that were of sufficient frame size to be commercially acceptable. During this same period of time, American consumers began to develop an interest in grass-finished beef as a healthy heart alternative to fish and chicken meat. The Murray Grey was uniquely poised for this new market opportunity with their inherent ability to efficiently use pasture and to consistently finish Choice on grass.

In 2002, the American Murray Grey Association began producing EPDs for members participating in the Association’s Group BreedPlan Genetic Evaluation program. The Murray Grey breed is the only breed to evaluate the genetic component of performance on the world wide population.

By the turn of the century, American Murray Grey breeders had begun to produce black cattle, opening that huge proportion of the commercial market long dominated by black haired breeds.

To learn more about how Murray Greys can work in your program, contact an AMGA member near you, or contact the Association.

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