A couple weeks ago, I was discussing with a fellow nutritionist the process by which we attempt to improve the nutrition program of a new client. Let’s say we have been called to review the nutrition program of a new client with the aim of improving performance or reducing cost (ideally both goals would be even better, but then we are getting into finer details suitable for another blog).

The dilemma of every nutritionist is this: Do you start from scratch or plan a step-by-step gradual approach? Let’s examine the first method. You are given ingredients and their prices, and after an examination of animals, facilities, health status and available labor quality, you sit down in front of your computer to formulate a new set of diets based on what you think is suitable for this farm. In contrast, the second approach calls for reviewing in details the existing nutrition program and you suggest specific changes to challenge the animals -- say 10 percent more lysine, or drop the second feed one week earlier, etc.

Starting from scratch is going to give you instant success or failure, and in my experience, the former is more likely than not. The reason for this being the farm has ended up having its existing nutrition program after countless trial-and-error attempts, one of which is our own. In my consulting practice, the best I have managed to do with this one-shot approach is to match existing performance. Now, by following the second approach, which is my preferred method, you begin by accepting the efforts of those before you. Then, you can start gradually changing nutrition by several steps until you can go no further. One further reason I prefer this method is that it coincides with our inherent fear of drastic changes. It also avoids the trap of high expectations followed by big disappointments. And finally, as the farm personnel participates actively in further shaping the nutrition program, it gives them a sense of ownership -- and what is better than that!