NEW HARRISBURG, Ohio — A herd of silver-colored cattle graze under a tree with red and yellow leaves, soaking in the autumn day’s sunshine. The sight grabs your attention and you look again at the silver cattle. These Murray Grey cattle, however, are not just pasture ornaments, some of them are winners from this year’s World Beef Expo held in September.
Sherie Clark and her husband, Harold, began raising Murray Grey cattle on their Carroll County farm after both retired from Timken Industries nine years ago.
Harold had always raised beef cattle, but Sherie was looking for something different, something more docile. So when her veterinarian was on a farm call to Sherie’s horses, the farm woman asked her about the different breeds of cattle. The veterinarian was familiar with the Murray Grey breed from her own experience and recommended them.
Clark made the decision to raise Murray Grey cattle, but she found it was difficult to find stock with the bloodlines she was searching for.
Then, a vacation a couple of years later changed everything for Sherie and Harold.
An unplanned stop at the Washington Intrastate Fair in Spokane, Wash., helped to jump start the breeding program for the Clarks.
They were vacationing in the western part of the United States when they came upon the fair. Not long after getting on the grounds, Clark said she saw him. He was a Murray Grey bull that stuck out from the others. The breeder had a bull, two heifers and a cow-calf pair for sale.
Clark said she and her husband walked away, thinking about the cattle and wondering how they would get them home.
After about three trips back to the cattle and talking to the breeders, the Clarks put down a deposit, and soon after, the cattle arrived in Carroll County.
“The western cattle have really improved my herd,” said Clark.
Now, Clark is taking the titles at the World Beef Expo in West Allis, Wis., including this year’s yearling heifer, champion yearling heifer, grand champion heifer, grand champion cow/calf pair, champion bull calf, grand champion bull and supreme champion female.
She is currently using a bull that has 100 percent Australian genetics. The bull’s mother was an imported embryo and was one of the first Australian embryos in the United States, according to Clark.
Clark said it is clear that the western genetics give the animals a longer leg and extend their back.
“Getting those genetics has opened doors. I never thought I would be showing, but the changes in the breeding program has made all the difference. This year has been good for me,” said Clark.
Clark has a total of 18 adult cows that are either Murray Grey or Murray Grey crosses.
She said the number one trait of the breed is how docile they are and how easy they are to work with.
“The biggest attraction is their docility. They don’t get flighty,” Clark said.
The herd also does well as a grass-fed breed, retaining tenderness and marbling on grass. “They keep their flesh well,” Clark added.
The show string gets a small ration of less than 2 pounds of feed that is ground especially for the Clarks from corn grown on their farm. Otherwise, the herd exists on a grass diet, and has access to a mineral tub at all times. Once a week, a bucket of grain is provided to the main herd so that they remember to follow a bucket. That way, Sherie says, if the herd needs to be moved from one pasture to another, they can be led by following a bucket.
Clark added her heifers have natural maternal instincts and are good milkers, providing calves with a good rate of growth. In addition, the cows can calve at 12 and 13 years old — they are noted for their longevity, along with good feet and legs.
The breed colors can vary. Silver is the dominant color, but they also come in black and brown.
The breed has naturally dark skin, which makes it good for all climates, as the cattle don’t sunburn. The breed also provides pigmentation around the eyes, which is being utilized by Hereford breeders especially if they have experienced problems with pink eye. The cattle are naturally polled.
Clark registers every female cow with the American Murray Grey Association. There are other registries in the United States, but the AMGA is the only one recognized internationally.
Clark said most of her bulls go to commercial breeders.
Harold, who grew up farming, purchased their farm in 1978 and then bought the adjacent farm 12 years ago. Now the farm now encompasses a total of 118 acres.
Sherie didn’t grow up on a farm but has adjusted to the farm life. Sherie and Howard married 10 years ago and she knew right away she wanted to raise her own cattle.
“I love the animals, and am loving showing,” Clark said.