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Colin Gesler has been in the meat industry for almost three decades, but when it comes to farming Herefords he calls himself an apprentice.

The 42-year-old has worked in butchering and abattoirs since the age of 15 - in the days when chopping was manual labour and a leg of lamb was more popular than an Angus steak - until he started his shop, Alexandra Quality Meats, which he runs in the town's main street.

Then Colin decided to go solo and bought his own farm, 40ha at Spring Creek.

Colin runs 50 Hereford steers, buying them as yearlings and slaughtering them at about 18 to 24 months for his shop, before dry ageing the carcasses for about two weeks.

He estimates about 30 per cent of the meat sold in Alexandra Quality Meats comes from his farm, adding the demand for grass-fed beef was paramount in his decision to buy the property.

"Customers come from Melbourne and ask for the grass-fed beef," he said.

"It's all about paddock-to-plate."

Colin chose Herefords because of their temperament - "I've had Angus and blacks and been kicked. Herefords are placid, they don't spook and are inquisitive."

"I sell Angus in the shop, but the marketing is so big on them I thought why not do Herefords for something different."

Colin buys the cattle at market, most recently for $535 a head at Christmas, and prefers to select them himself, rather than using a buyer, for quality control.

He buys the steers at about 300kg and feeds them to about 550kg when they are slaughtered at Hardwicks Meatworks in Kyneton - which Colin says presents "clean carcasses professionally".

"If I butcher them at one year, I'm just doing what the supermarkets do, putting a yearling on a tray. They need more flavour and age, and the more size, the more flavour."

The land around Spring Creek is a mix of rolling and steep hills - "every morning I find them grazing on the hills so they must like it".

Colin said his schooling in butchers' shops and abattoirs had paid dividends in his role as farmer.

In particular, his eye for a quality carcass.

"There was no gauging back then (the 1980s) as there is nowadays. Now they use fat depth, but back then we just learnt about things like the size of the eye (muscle)," he said.

"We knew the farmers and knew their meat was good. In a bad season or good season you learnt about the quality, you could see it in the shape and colours whether they'd been on good food."

He said butchering had changed considerably since the 1980s.
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