Nutritionists, too, should pledge to do no harm

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Editor's note: This Practice Builder is from Martha Baker, dairy specialist and marketing nutritionist for Land O’Lakes Purina Feeds.


When medical doctors take the Hippocratic oath, they pledge to do no harm.

While nutritionists have no such oath, the implied agreement is they will do no economic harm when working with dairy farmers.

That is why it is important to know about Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

A Type 1 error occurs when you choose to use a product or technology that has a below-breakeven return on investment. A Type 2 error, meanwhile, is not choosing to use a product or technology that has an above-breakeven return to it.  

A Type 2 error ― through inaction ― can be more expensive, in many cases, than a Type 1 error. But it happens, often enough, because people don’t want to change the status quo if things appear to be running smoothly. Some nutritionists are afraid that if they make a change in the ration, it could backfire on them if there is a hiccup in production or if things don’t happen soon enough.

Yet, the fear factor in this case may be keeping the farm from making further progress.   

“A Type 2 error is something you never want to do,” says Martha Baker, dairy specialist and marketing nutritionist for Land O’Lakes Purina Feeds.

Baker says the way to avoid Type 1 and Type 2 errors is to follow the research studies and be discerning when it appears there is solid evidence one way or the other.

She cites the example of sodium bicarbonate. There are numerous research papers showing that sodium bicarbonate has a positive impact on milk production or components, she said.

And, be open to new technologies.

“There are some new technologies we don’t want to ignore just because we don’t have 20 years of research behind it,” she adds.



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