How Peak Genetics creates peak performing bulls

18 March 2024
An article by  Natasha Lobban

Helping young bulls produce semen with “smaller factories” comes down to keeping them in peak condition. 

That was the message from Peak Genetics Director Michael Schmitt at GA | 2024 Today, Tomorrow and Beyond in Geelong on Monday. 

Mr Schmitt, who oversees the selection, creation, and development of the next generation of elite cattle genetics through an extensive embryo production program, recipient farm network and animal care facilities for the US-based business, said this involved growing the bulls out properly and feeding them well, but not too well. 

“We’re pretty aggressive to get them going – they go to the collection ring at six to seven months of age,” he said. 

“We don’t expect them to be producing units there, it’s more about familiarity.” 

Peak Genetics bulls were usually about 11-12 months before they were producing units that passed quality control requirements, and 13 months before they could be marketed with adequate inventory. 

“We track age and weight - the amount of semen they make is all about how big the testicles are,” he said. 

He explained that by growing bulls out faster, the testicles grew faster. 

“We’re shooting for a minimum of 2.5 pounds a day, which is just over a kilogram a day, that’s at a minimum,” he said. 

Michaell Scmitt

Peak Genetics Director Michael Schmitt.

Mr Schmitt likened the process to growing out replacement heifers, which often receive premium nutrition to ensure future growth and fertility. 

While growing bulls out for maximum testicle growth was important, it was also important to avoid heavy over-conditioned bulls. 

“The marketing team really want to see a big bull, but that’s not the condition (where) he would be producing optimum semen,” he said. 

“We aim to manage his weight to that optimum semen production.” 

Analysis provides valuable insight 

Mr Schmitt said young bulls typically will have problems with morphology and motility, so they had to meet minimum standards before they were suitable to freeze. 

The analysis of semen not only shows the progress of developing bulls, but also gives clues about anything that might be holding the bull back. 

For example, more debris in semen can be caused by stress – something that can be addressed by a change in management practices. 

“We can troubleshoot; do we need more time or do we need to address more specific management things,” he said. 

Mr Schmitt said it usually took six weeks for such changes to be apparent in semen, so it was important for them to be implemented as soon as a problem is identified. 

GA | 2024 Today, Tomorrow and Beyond continues in Geelong today. 

Some of today’s topics include “Australian Country Choice’s journey to 3,000 fullblood Wagyu breeders”, “It all centres on the cow”, and “How IVF can be integrated into herd management as a tool for herd development”. 


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