Normand St-Pierre, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
The Darwin Awards go annually to people who have shown incredible, stupid behavior and an apparent
complete disregard for basic common sense. The human species is better served by having their genes
removed from the gene pool. At times, the dairy industry in the Tri-State area shows behavior worthy of a
Darwin Award. The area is blessed with an unmatched array of natural resources and is located strategically
next to large, growing dairy markets. Despite these natural blessings, the area has progressively lost market
share of the growing national milk supply. To remain a long-term, viable and competitive dairy region, our
industry must address issues of structure, economic impact, animal waste, research, and leadership.
Have you ever heard of the Darwin Awards? For those who have not, these awards are given to those who,
out of their own stupidity, are improving the human species by removing their genes from the gene pool.
Some of the nominees for 1999 include the following.
Nominee No. 1, from the San Jose Mercury News: An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to
break a former girlfriend's windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing
a hole in his chest.
Nominee No. 2, from the Kalamazoo Gazette: James Burns, 34, a mechanic from Alamo, Michigan, was
killed as he was trying to repair what police described as a "farm-type truck". Burns got a friend to drive the
truck down the highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of the troubling
noise. Burns' clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns "wrapped around the
Nominee No. 3, from the Hickory Daily Record: Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death
in Newton, NC. Awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone,
but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson 0.38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.
Nominee No. 4, from the Indianapolis Star: Sheriff investigators said that Gregory David Pryor died in his
parent's rural Dunkirk home while cleaning a 54-caliber muzzle loader that had not been firing properly.
The gunpowder ignited and the weapon discharged in his face when he used a cigarette lighter to look into
Nominee No. 5, from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Two local men were injured seriously when their
pick-up truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38. Thurston Poole and
Billy Ray Wallis were returning home after a frog-gigging trip. Poole's pick-up truck headlights
malfunctioned due to a burned out headlight fuse. A replacement fuse was not available, but Wallis
noticed that a 0.22 caliber bullet from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box located next to the steering
wheel column. Upon inserting the bullet, the headlights began to operate and the two men proceeded
eastbound toward White River Bridge. After traveling approximately 20 miles and just before crossing the
river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged and struck Poole in the right testicle. The vehicle
swerved sharply to the right and struck a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the
accident, but will require surgery to repair the wound. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle. Upon being
notified of the wreck, Poole's wife Lavinia asked how many frogs the boys had caught, and whether anyone had gotten them from the truck.
What is the connection between the Darwin Awards and the Tri-State Dairy Industry? As you read the list
of nominees for 1999, you must have realized that in all instances the nominees ended up on the list because
they failed to realize in time the potential negative impact of their actions. As you read through, surely you
must have thought "how can someone be so stupid?" Well, as I look at the behavior of our industry in
Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, I am sometimes very worried that we are positioning ourselves to receive a
Darwin Award in 5 or 10 years from now.
From a natural resource standpoint, the Tri-State Area possesses the critical elements to foster a dynamic
dairy industry. The climate is near ideal to dairy production. Crop production is extensive and the
availability of good quality feedstuffs rarely is questioned. In all three states, the dairy infrastructure ranges
from adequate to extensive. Land Grant Universities and other colleges offer a wide range of programs to
address the needs of the industry. The combined milk production in all three states, estimated at 12 billion
pounds in 1998, meets only 80% of the 15 billion pounds of the total milk demand of its growing
population. The dairy processing sector is extensive and easily could handle substantially more milk. South
and east of us is a region experiencing a constant milk production decline combined with a steady increase
in population. Currently, the Southeast must import over 3 billion pounds of milk per year just to supply its
demand for fluid milk. This deficit in fluid milk is projected to keep increasing for years to come. Our
states are strategically located to capture this growing market. However, we have failed to grow our
industry to even follow the national pace of growth in demand for dairy products. In 1970, Indiana,
Michigan and Ohio produced 11.4 billion pounds of milk altogether, or 9.7% of the total national milk
supply In 1996, the same three states produced 11.9 billion pounds of milk, or 7.8% of the national
production. I don't know of any business that can continuously loose market share and expect to remain
viable in the long-term. Our industry is sometimes hopelessly divided on issues that shouldn't be issues in
the first place. Many, if not most, are content with myopic solutions equivalent to using 0.22 caliber bullets
as fuse replacements because "they work", that is, they keep the headlights on...... Until.........