Frankford beekeeper David VanderDussen may have hived off a name for himself in some circles by devising an efficient way to control mites.
But heís also making a splash in the dairy industry by coming up with a way to free-choice feed acidified milk to dairy and veal calves, and goat kids.
The common denominator in both systems is formic acid, which in various applications, kills varroa and tracheal mites in bees, and prevents scours in nursing livestock while preserving feed milk or colostrum for up to three days at room temperature.
VanderDussen discussed both of his services while participating Oct. 29-30 in the 3rd annual Agri-Food Innovation Forum held at the Ottawa Congress Centre.
His Mite-Away process which slowly releases formic acid in the hive earned him the 2007 Premierís Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
But thereís equal buzz about NOD Apiary Productsí - which bills itself as the "formic acid specialists" - transfer of acidified colostrum, whole milk or milk replacer to calves through the simple conveyance of a standard garbage bucket equipped with plastic nipples, mimicking the natural feeding process.
NODís product is a diluted bio-degradable food grade formic acid solution which helps get calves to the weaning stage sooner while ensuring that theyíre healthy, happy and grow faster, VanderDussen said.
While mixing acid with nursing milk is a relatively new concept here, it has been used successfully in Finland for several years, said NOD warehouse manager and dairyman Brian Corbett.
Similarly to the bee industry, the main issue in dairy is efficient, safe delivery of the acid. Because NOD was already pre-mixing a 65 per cent acid solution for hives, it was an easy step to mix 9.8 per cent batches for dairy, Corbett explained.
The NOD pre-packaged dilution eliminates the need for technically tricky watering down on the farm of hazardous and corrosive 85 per cent acid which, if spilled, can "cause skin to peel off right before your eyes", Corbett said. Regular stirring and PH testing of NOD acid mix and milk must still be performed.
The scourge of the nursery, scours are no longer a problem with acidified milk which correctly balances young digestive systems. Bouts of diarrhea are reduced.
While hunger is a major stress on new-born calves which normally have to wait for individual hand feeding - and may also be a major cause of sickness in the first 7-21 days - free access to acidified milk through NODís nippled buckets ensures hunger is satiated while satisfying the biological need to suckle.
The system reduces mortality rates, VanderDussen said, noting that one goat milk producer reported that deaths due to scours dropped from 32 per cent to 3 per cent after only one kidding season.
With calves healthier and more robust, veterinary bills are reduced. With acidified milk delivered free-choice, labour costs come down because twice daily feedings and handling and washing of pails are eliminated.
Ontario producers commonly rear suckling calves in individual pens and restrict feeding to two or three meals a day.
Finally, VanderDussen said, free-choice feeding is more humane with calves housed communally, allowing socialization.