The Sunny Boy Problem

Sheep atop a dike

Sheep atop a dike

The Dutch are champion milkers.  Everywhere we ride our bikes we see sheep, goats, and–especially–cows.  We have cream soups, cream sauces, ice cream and whipped cream at every evening meal, and cheese finds its way into most entrees as well. Milk and milk products are the Dutch’s foremost agricultural export–they nurse much of Europe.  And they have a problem–the problem of Sunny Boy–that you might not know if you casually pedal by the herds of cows.

Sunny Boy is a Dutch Holstein bull who became a “movie star” in the dairy breeding industry by producing over 1.7 million straws (units) of semen and siring 500,000 daughters.  It goes without saying that his daughters were particularly well-formed and prodigious milk producers.  This created great demand, and Sunny Boy was able to meet the demand until his death a few years ago.


Dairy farms and herds of cows can be seen throughout Holland.

It also instilled one strong genetic line into a large percentage of Dutch dairy herds, bringing with it the dangers of inbreeding.  Most would-be Dutch successors to Sunny Boy are grandsons or great-grandsons, unable to solve the problem.  Therefore the search is on–for one or preferably several bulls with fresh bloodlines, the ability to pass on great milk-producing traits, and prolific semen output.  Perhaps the progeny of Toystory–an American Holstein and “titan of artificial insemination” who surpassed Sunny Boy in 2012 with 2 million straws produced–will hold the answer.  The Dutch diet and agricultural exports depend on it!

For a more nuanced understanding of the issues, click here.

Problem solved?

Problem solved?





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