Any cattle trait that reduces stress on a dairy operation is ideal – and with Murray Grey cattle, there are plenty of positives.
Originating in Australia’s upper Murray River Valley in the early 1900s, the Murray Grey is a polled beef breed similar in appearance to the Angus, but grey, silver or dun in colour.
Murray Grey genetics are increasingly being used over dairy cattle in New Zealand to throw a calf that is valuable as a beef option, whether female or male.
NZ Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society vice-president Zarrah Blackwell says some key benefits of using Murray Grey genetics is the easy identification of a Murray Grey calf, ease of calving with calves of low to moderate birthweight, and the breed’s reputation for a quiet temperament.
“A Murray Grey bull throws a grey calf over a dairy cow, making them easily identifiable in the paddock,” Blackwell says.
“The Murray Grey breed is also easy calving, with calves of a low to moderate birthweight. Despite its size, a Murray Grey calf is vigorous at birth, out easily, and up and around quickly.
“Typically, Murray Grey cattle are quiet and easy to deal with. An easy-going temperament in both the males and females of the breed are an essential component on any cattle operation.”
Blackwell, of Mangaotea Farm, says Murray Grey calves are also fast growing, an excellent trait for calf rearers and those wanting to take advantage of the breed’s excellent reputation for quality beef.
“We have a couple of clients who use Murray Grey bulls over their heifers and then sell the calves at 10 days old to people wanting to rear and finish them,” she says.
“Another client uses Murray Greys over later cows, keeping all calves to raise on finishing blocks.
“Murray Greys readily convert grass to beef, finish economically in feed lots, and have high yields of saleable beef.”
Blackwell says one challenge for Murray Grey breeders in NZ has been the relatively small gene pool in the country.
“There are numerous breeders but not a lot of cows per breeder,” she says.
“But there are some excellent Australian performance genetics coming in now. NZ Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society president Barry Macdonald (Torrisdale) buys a bull every year or two from Australia, and the resulting progeny has been positive.”
Blackwell bought a bull from Macdonald – sired by Melaleuca Locky – that Macdonald bought in Australia and imported semen from.
“The progeny is really adding something to my herd,” she says.
“Carcase figures and calving ease were spot-on. The heifer calves from last year were impressive, and as he was used over all the mixed age cows this year, we are looking forward to seeing them grow on.”
She says the improvement in genetics in recent years is clear when she looks at her older cows.
Blackwell says things are changing a bit in the NZ Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society – for the better.
“There are three to four young breeders on the council who are new to the role but are bringing in some great new ideas,” she says.
“They are passionate people. Plus, we have some other young people just starting out breeding cattle; positives every breed society needs.”
This article first appeared in the September edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.