History of the Breed

The Murray Grey breed was developed from an initial mating of a reportedly light roan Shorthorn cow, kept as a house “milk” cow, to a succession of Aberdeen Angus bulls beginning in 1905, and during the Federation drought, on the Thologolong property along the Murray River in New South Wales, Australia, of Peter and Ena Sutherland. The resulting twelve or thirteen dun-grey calves from these matings were kept as curiosities, for their unusual coloring and first known as Mulberries. Although reported to be an embarrassment to Peter Sutherland, who prized his Angus herd, 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.  Eventually marrying one of the Sutherland boys, Keith, she nurtured these cattle and the herd continued to grow. 

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.

Helen Sutherland continued breeding these cattle until the drought of 1945, when the Greys along with Angus and Shorthorn herds were sent away for grazing to escape the drought. Only eight of her Greys survived and she used these to form a systematic breeding program. These unusually colored cattle came to be known for growing quickly, were good converters of feed and produced quality carcasses. This caught the attention of local cattlemen who soon became interested in the Greys and began also breeding them. The first larger-scale commercial herds were established in the late 1940s. It was also late in the 1940’s when awareness was gradually emerging 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 colored that they were Murray Greys, and the name stuck.

In the 1960s several grey cattle breeders were selling them as a commercial enterprise and the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society was formed in Australia to register the cattle and to administer the breed. Helen Sutherland Pastoral Company Pty. Limited was incorporated on 31 May 1963 and is still in existence today.

Greyman cattle, not to be confused with Purebred Murray Greys, were developed in Queensland in the 1970s, specifically to suit the Queensland environment, by combining Murray Grey and Brahman breeds.

It was also in the early 1970’s that the first Murray Grey semen and embryos were shipped to the United States.

At MGIA we are very honored to have as members, and currently serving on the Board of Directors, Horace and Carole McQueen of Queensdale Farm in Texas, who have been breeding Murray Greys since that time.

Cattle breeders in the northern and western regions of Australia, as well as in several other countries including the United States, are increasingly using Murray Grey genetics to cross with Bos Indicus cattle to improve fertility, docility and carcasse quality. Murray Greys are the third largest breed in Australia. 

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. Poor marketing of the breed in the United States in the last several decades has led to decreased numbers however, as of 2017, the MGIA’s renewed focus has plans to get our Greys into the carcasse competitions that will win it recognition here. 

Today both of Helen Sutherland’s sons, Murray and Peter, are still very active with the breed in Australia and there are Murray Grey registries not only in Australia but also in CanadaNew Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States