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Upper Murray River region birthplace of the Murray Greys

Australia’s notable contribution to the world’s beef cattle industry, the Murray Grey breed, was made by two women, Ena and Helen Sutherland, and cattleman Mervyn Gadd. The story began at Thologolong on the banks of the Murray River.

The property was established in 1836 by John Spalding and William Cobham, and acquired by Peter and John Sutherland in 1898. The Sutherlands ran cattle and sheep as well as a Polled Angus herd of black cattle only. A drought in 1902-3 forced the Sutherlands to buy-in cattle to replenish their own herd, and among the new stock was an almost white, roan cow.

Whether by accident or design the cow was paddocked with Angus bulls, and a ‘mulberry’ calf was born. From 1905 to 1917 another 12 ‘mulberries’ were produced. Sutherland wanted to get rid of the ‘mulberries (greys)’ but it was his wife Ena who insisted they stay. In the 1920s Helen Player, (later to become Helen Sutherland) visited the station and also saw the potential of the ‘mulberries’. Following Peter Sutherland’s death in 1929, the property was broken up and stock sold in 1932 . Eight ‘mulberries’ were purchased by Helen Player which she systematically cross-bred to improve quality. 

Murray Grey Cattle
Photo: Murray Grey - source

In the 1930s the Gadd family, further up-stream, were encouraged by Keith Sutherland to take a ‘mulberry’ (grey) as an experiment and cross-bred it with 30 Angus heifers. During the 1940s the he obtained good prices for the ‘greys’ even though the grey colour was mistrusted by other cattlemen. Mervyn Gadd began promoted the ‘greys’ locally and in 1957 entered a grey bull in the Corryong Show, it was the first public showing. The next showing was at Holbrook in 1959 and then in early 1960 he made headlines with record sale prices at Melbourne’s Newmarket Sales.

Back at Thologolong the Sutherlands were registering their Murray Grey Stud. The name for the ‘greys’ was finally agreed upon. Names such as ‘Scots Greys’, ‘Sutherland Greys’, and ‘Mousies’ were considered but the name ‘Murray Grey’ won.

The breed was officially recognised and the Murray Grey Society was formed in 1962.


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