Murray Grey breed aims to win new members at Henty

August 18, 2015

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Brett Davidson with his dogs Shazza and bear, and Murray Grey heifers on his Dookie farm.

The Henty Machinery Field Days have been targeted as a strategic way to engage with commercial beef producers by the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society.

The Murray Grey breed has been a long time supporter of the field days and came back into the fold last year as an exhibitor after several years absence.

The North Eastern Victorian Murray Grey Promotions Group will stage a display of information and live cattle, including cows and calves, and crossbred or purebred steers.

Group member Brett Davidson, of Dookie, said Henty presented the ideal forum to speak one-on-one with commercial beef producers.

“We need to be out and about actively talking to producers – Henty allows us to meet smaller producers with lifestyle blocks through to people with multiple properties and thousands of cows,’’ Mr Davidson said.

The North East Group comprises about 30 stud and commercial members from southern NSW to Seymour.

The group also holds annual educational workshops at the Bendigo Beef Expo and the Murray Grey National Show and Sale at Wodonga.

In the past, the workshops have covered ultrasound scanning, structural assessment, performance recording, bull management, fertility testing and the individual cuts within a carcass.

Mr Davidson has served as a director on the Murray Grey board for over 12 months and runs 40 stud females with his wife Dr Sarah Chaplin.

The Murray Grey’s quiet temperament, carcass qualities and heat tolerance initially attracted Brett and Sarah.

“They are productive, easy care cattle with the ability to fatten off grass,’’ Mr Davidson said.

“They offer a combination of muscle and softness.’’

Mr Davidson said the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society was working on increasing membership and market share through a strategic marketing plan.

“We have a good group of active and productive breeders, with more members on a percentage basis on BREEDPLAN than any other breed,’’ he said.

“Murray Grey cattle have the ability to finish off grass and the grassfed market premiums are an additional 30-40c/kg above other markets, making the Murray Grey a valuable carcass animal.

“Murray Greys are able to easily meet the specifications for the domestic and supermarket trade.

“There is also demand coming from overseas for genetics to go over Bos indicus and tropical Tuli cattle to improve carcass quality.

“The breed’s light coloured coat and heat tolerance makes it ideal for the sub-tropical and tropical areas.’’

Mr Davidson said the society regarded northern Australia as a primary market for the breed and staged a strong presence at Beef Australia 2015 at Rockhampton in May.

“Murray Greys are adaptable to all climatic regions with large purebred herds proving profitable in Central Australia,’’ he said.

“The breed has performed consistently well in Western Australian domestic and export markets – buyers are happy to pay a couple extra cents per kilogram for the carcass quality.

“As a board, we want to focus on cost of production and the fact they are profitable, easy care cattle.’’

Next year, the breed will celebrate the 50th anniversary National Show and Sale at Wodonga, and plans an increased presence on social media and in the marketplace.

“We have arrested the membership decline and are looking at growth again with both members and cattle numbers,’’ Mr Davidson said.

“We have some new and younger breeders coming on, and will be encouraging the regional promotional groups to showcase the breed at a grass roots level.

“The cattle will always sell themselves but it comes down to providing what the market wants.

“We have individual butchers and paddock-to-plate operators having trouble keeping up with demand for the beef, while overseas export orders have also been received.

“Our focus is on growing the breed and any consideration down the path towards establishing a branded product will be done on its merits, but while there are so many good butchers pushing the breed, we will be sticking to our core business.’’

Mr Davidson said a progeny test program was under development to trial young industry sires.