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2 Wisconsin vets named Expo Industry People of Year

Dr. Dan Hornickel (left) and Dr. Chris Keim
AWARD WINNERS: Dr. Dan Hornickel (left) and Dr. Chris Keim of Sunshine Genetics in Whitewater, Wis., are the 2018 World Dairy Expo Industry People of the Year.
The owners of Sunshine Genetics, Whitewater, will be honored during World Dairy Expo.

Each year, World Dairy Expo recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the dairy industry. Dr. Dan Hornickel and Dr. Chris Keim are being honored as the 2018 World Dairy Expo Industry People of the Year. They will be recognized tonight at Expo’s Dinner With the Stars in Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis.

Hornickel and Keim are well-known in dairy industry circles around the globe as pioneers in the advancement and perfection of embryo transfer methods. The two veterinarians met during their time as students at the University of Illinois during the 1970s. After earning their veterinary medicine degrees, each went into private practice.

Neither of their respective practices wished to offer ET services, which was a new and emerging technology at the time. Although they didn’t work together, Hornickel and Keim would meet after work or on weekends to hone their ET skills. Eventually they decided to leave their practices and go into a partnership together to pursue their passion and shared vision for ET and genetic advancement.

Embryo transfer pioneers
In 1983, a 235-acre farm was purchased outside of Whitewater, Wis., and Sunshine Genetics was born. Over time, Hornickel and Keim, with the assistance of their staff, developed a world-renowned ET business and facility.

Sunshine Genetics is known for providing special care and superior ET services to cattle breeders from around the world. Sunshine was one of the first in the ET business to bring top genetic value animals to its location to conduct flushes and transfers. This method increases consistency of care and offers the convenience of an on-site laboratory.

Over time, the work at Sunshine has set the standard for ET techniques.

A sign that hangs above the entrance to the main barn reads: “We care for the cows everyone cares for.” Hornickel and Keim have been instrumental in developing “giants” in the Brown Swiss and Holstein breeds. These cows include World Dairy Expo champions and mothers of high-indexing bulls in both breeds.

As Hornickel and Keim grew their business at Sunshine, they decided they would like to own top Holstein and Brown Swiss cattle as well. Their Sun-Made prefix has proved its worth with highly valued AI sires and females.

“ET was used to develop our own herd of Holsteins and Brown Swiss,” Keim says. “All told, we have bred and sold over 100 Excellent cows, and some of our bulls have made a significant contribution to progress worldwide.

Longtime Expo exhibitors
“We have been an exhibitor of cattle at WDE most years since its inception in 1967,” Keim says. “We always look forward to competing in the greatest dairy show anywhere; there is renewed excitement and new friendships with each show.”

“There is satisfaction in knowing that the owners of highly valuable cows have trusted us from the beginning,” Hornickel says. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with the best dairy cattle in the world. Consequently, we handled embryos that became the next generation’s best. Because of this, we’ve had a small part in contributing to breed progress over several generations.”

“We are very honored to join an elite group of dairy industry leaders that have been recognized over the years,” Keim adds. “WDE has been important to us and our business. We have had many international genetics experts and breeders view our clients’ embryo donors at our ET center, purchasing embryos during Expo week. For some, Sunshine is a scheduled stop every year during their visit to WDE.

“We’re proud of the international work with embryos, exports, travel and consulting that has taken place at Sunshine.”

Giebel writes from Baraboo, Wis.

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