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Help where you find it; don’t move it to the table

Ben Yale Published on 21 September 2010


Years ago in a Red Cross CPR class I took, we were exposed to a number of educational approaches – movies, booklets, lectures, demonstrations and drills. CPR is a life-saving skill gained by doing, not reading, so the focus had to be hands-on practice.



Although it is meant to save the lives of people, practicing on people is not a good idea. Besides going lip to lip with a stranger, or even someone you know, actually performing the techniques on a live, breathing, healthy person can put that person at real risk of injury.

The answer was the use of CPR mannequins or dummies. With these (both adult- and child-sized) we could practice tilting the head, opening the mouth, pinching the nose, breathing in the mouth and compressing the chest, as well as performing back slaps or the Heimlich maneuver.

Among the techniques taught for choking victims was the Heimlich maneuver. This back then was a relatively new technique, named after its inventor, Henry Heimlich, for rescuing choking victims by an action that compresses the victim’s lungs, which in turn causes a flow of air that carries the food out of the airway and out of the mouth. Its inventor and promoter claims that the technique has saved more lives than any other technique.

Incorporating the Heimlich maneuver in Red Cross training was new then. Prior procedure called for hard slaps to the back. My training called for back slaps, then the Heimlich maneuver. Later the Red Cross and other training organizations called for only the Heimlich maneuver. Many lives were reported saved by the Heimlich, but there were reports of serious injury as well.

Research was done on the truly effective means. Since 2006, the Red Cross protocol calls for a progression from asking the victim to cough, use of hard blows with the heel of the hand on the upper back of the victim, then the maneuver or chest compressions to create the air explosion. Even the tried-and-true mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions is being replaced with rapid chest compressions. It has been and continues to be an evolution in techniques directed by greater and greater knowledge.


Besides CPR, I learned something else then. One member of my class was an EMT squad trainee. When the films were done and the presentations over with, it was time to practice on the dummies. The instructor placed the dummy on the floor to simulate a drowning victim just removed from the water. Using our newly instructed CPR, we were to bring it “back to life.”

One by one we knelt down and checked the airway, pulled back the head, pinched the nose, covered the mouth with our own, and breathed into the lungs while another student knelt on the other side and did chest compressions, counting out the cadence while doing so.

When this trainee’s time came, he asked that the dummy be put on a table. Due to his enormous size he did not have the needed flexibility to easily bend and kneel and, when he did get down, his enormous bulk separated his mouth from the dummy’s.

The instructor quietly responded, “You take the victim where you find them. There are no tables on the road or the beach.”

She went on to remind us that nothing was ever convenient when it came to rescuing the injured. Temperature, rain, snow, sleet, rough terrain, terrible odors and fumes, danger from fire and vehicles and what-have-you – all could and likely would be present.

Anyone who has had to clear a combine head in the field, or handle a difficult calving in the heat and humidity of a summer evening while standing in you-know-what, understands that the challenges of life do not come conveniently located. This you-have-what-you-have reality is an ever-recurring scene in life, particularly in livestock agriculture. Life is not always pretty, and life-threatening events are even less so.


Our industry has experienced a major train wreck. The bodies of injured dairymen are spread throughout the industry. They call for a rescue. The government and industry responded with the techniques of the past – price support, FMMOs, direct milk payments, herd reduction incentives, product purchases. They failed. In the end, the patients are healing themselves as prices are slowly recovering.

Though they did not solve the problem, each have their promoters. Some suggesting the program was right, just not enough. There are even proposals for new techniques to address the challenges to the industry. These include programs such as supply management, market stabilization, margin protection, competitive pricing, just to name a few.

The technology of e-mail, websites, web-based presentations, conference calls, blogs, chat rooms, social networks and countless other options bring these promoters and their proposals to us, often daily. As I read the articles or listen to the presentations, I routinely see the victims removed from the inconvenient position they were found and placed in a redesigned environment, ensuring that the proposal can save it. Eliminating or ignoring inconvenient facts or factors in our advocacy is easy to do.

One of the most common is the often unintentional focus on a program that saves my farm. For example, in arguments in support of “cost of production,” the cost quoted is that person’s own cost of production. The average cost may be something altogether different.

In point of fact, there is no actual number that accurately reflects costs for all dairymen. On the other hand, in the real world over time, dairy farming has to have been profitable. Otherwise we would not see the continuing growth in production.

There are periods of losses, think 2009, but over a period of years, profit continues to keep producers in production. Proposals to solve the losses at one farm or several similar ones, ignores the reality of where 50,000-plus producers are. Paying enough for the most costly producers would pump so much money into the more efficient farms that production would explode.

Oversimplification of the kinds of dairy farmers is another tabling move. The diversity among dairy farmers is much greater than the small, big and really big or Western versus Upper Midwest versus Northeast versus Southeast battles so often reported. Proposals to increase prices for fluid milk might have benefits in the South or other high utilization areas, but little impact in markets like California or Idaho, big or small.

Margin protection proposals can mean more to a medium-size Midwestern farm that buys its feed than a large Western farm that is fully integrated from fields to the bulk tank, who would prefer price protection. The Jersey herd with higher solids prefers component pricing more than a Holstein herd. Then there are the farms fully leveraged (big and small) that can withstand very little volatility and those that have little debt (again, big and small) who find volatility less threatening.

Farms depending on family labor do not have the employment and immigration issues of larger farms. Some dairy producers are only dairy farmers; others are more diversified. Producers who are members of cooperatives with diversity in plant ownership and marketing opportunities need different policies than the members of marketing-only cooperatives or producers who market directly to a plant. Again, this diversity goes beyond where they are located or how big or small they are. Successful programs have to fit all of those.

The diversity really does add complexity. With so many aspects of the programs, every producer faces multiple opportunities and challenges. Which ones are more important is up to the farm and cannot be generalized.

Another method of putting the industry on a table is the nostalgic look at the past. Time and time again speakers and writers will note the drop from almost 650,000 dairy farms in 1970 to less than 10 percent of that today. The underlying premise in many of these comments is two-fold: First, we have fewer producers solely because of a failed dairy policy, as opposed to a response to changes in taxation, population shifts, economics, transportation, information transmittal, rural sociology, family size, technology, education and the host of other changes in the broader world that have similarly reduced the number of banks, stores, schools, gas stations and everything.

The second implied argument is that the policy they want is one for 650,000 dairymen. The average herd size in 1970 was about 18 to 19 cows; today it is at 175, almost 10 times higher. Do we really want to build dairy policy for such size of dairy farms?

We avoid the uncomfortable situation of multiple factors when we ignore not only how complex dairy pricing and marketing is, but the complexity of dairy in its place in the overall economy. The terrible economic blow of 2008-2010 was not just a U.S. dairy problem, it was a world economic crisis across the entire economy. Car and house sales plummeted. Stocks and bonds depreciated. Businesses closed or shrank. Non-farm workers lost their jobs. A dairy supply/demand adjustment in the midst of a robust economy can have some positive results, but when it is the overall economy that has tanked, we cannot get ourselves out of that mess by just dealing with milk supply.

Another favorite table to place the victim is to ignore the fact that the U.S. dairy industry is tied to world markets. Our tariff rate quotas are insufficient to protect too-high domestic prices against lower world prices, an advantage our Canadian neighbors have with their nearly 300 percent dairy tariffs. As a consequence, raising domestic milk prices to meet the cost needs of all or nearly all producers, is unsustainable because it will result in higher imports.

As we practiced, we were reminded: Do not practice on healthy people! The measures, although life-saving, were invasive, and with the good came injuries and harm. Whatever new programs are created have the same possibility. One way to avoid that is to consider their role in the entirety of the dairy industry, not just the portion we conveniently move to the table. PD

Ben Yale
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