Busy bull: Bull sires an estimated 500,000 calves

DairyCow_resizedReferred to as a “titan of artificial insemination” and an “industry legend,” Toystory, a 2,700-pound bull who sired an estimated 500,000 offspring in more than 50 countries, was recently laid to rest.

Toystory’s handlers were able to confirm that more than 2.4 million units of his sperm were sold and shipped to farmers around the world during his lifetime, shattering a record that was previously set by Sunny Boy, a Dutch bull who sold more than 1.7 million units in the 1990s. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, this feat is so rare, it’s known among breeders as the millionaires club.

Sold through slender straws that hold about 1/20th of a teaspoon of his semen, each unit fetches anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred and can then be used it to breed dozens of cows.

With a neck nearly 57 inches around, Toystory was described as being blessed with a ravenous libido, typically producing sperm nine times a week, about twice the average of other bulls. One veterinarian dubbed him “meaner than a snake,” say his handlers, who were grateful some days for the safety fences keeping him penned in.

When he died on Thanksgiving Day, his prowess was celebrated on hats, T-shirts and even his own commemorative semen straws. Recent posts to the Facebook page of his owner Genex Cooperative Inc. included, “He was legend” and “Torazo!”—Spanish for super bull.

At around a year old, Genex first collected Toystory’s semen, but had to wait more than three years because at that time, dairy producers had to see how the daughters of a bull turned out before deciding to buy the semen. The farmers wanted to see how much milk a cow produced, the fat and protein levels of her output, and how well she handled the rigors of milking.

According to the article, by the mid 2000s however, producers liked what they were seeing in Toystory’s offspring, and sales of his semen started to surge. He scored highly on influential performance rankings watched by the global dairy industry and grew into a global brand through a rare mix of fertility, genetics and looks. His semen was good at getting cows pregnant and his daughters were easy to birth and dependably strong.

Jan Hessel Bierma of Holstein International compared Toystory with a Volkswagen Golf. “Not a fancy car, doing the job every day and for a long time—and not too expensive,” he said in the article. In fact, farmers were so impressed with Toystory’s daughters that one farm manager paid more than $30,000 for one.

Hobbled by back problem this past summer, Toystory’s handlers decided to retire him and chose a spot atop what is known as Stony Hill to reflect Toystory’s stature and will hold a larger memorial service in the spring.

Today, bulls are being bred younger and often retire before they reach their semen-producing prime, replaced by “young guns” that benefit from another generation of genetic advances.

“It is very possible that no other bull will ever surpass his record,” said Keith Heikes, chief operating officer at Genex.

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