Now showing 1 - 10 of 25
  • Publication
    Risk factors for detection of bovine viral diarrhoea virus in low-risk herds during the latter stages of Ireland’s eradication programme
    Background: A national programme to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) has been in place in Ireland since 2013. To inform decision making in the end stages of eradication, and support the development of posteradication surveillance strategies, an understanding of risks of infection in a low prevalence system is required. Methods: A case-control study design was implemented. The study population comprised bovine herds that had calves born and tested negative for BVD virus (BVDV) every year from 2013 to 2019 (n = 46,219 herds). We defined cases as herds which had one or more test positive calves for the first time in 2019 (n = 204). Controls (n = 816) were randomly sampled from the herds which remained test negative in 2019. The effects of herd size, management system, inward movements, including those of potential trojan dams (pregnant animals brought into the herd that could potentially be carrying infected calves in utero), and proximity to herds testing positive in the preceding year, were investigated. Network analysis approaches were used to generate variables measuring connections with test positive herds through inward cattle movements. A generalised linear mixed model, including a county-level random effect, was used to explore these risk factors. Results: Our final model retained ln (herd size) (Odds Ratio (95% CI): 1.72 (1.40, 2.12)), distance from test positive herds (0.54 (0.44, 0.66) for each extra land-parcel boundary crossed to reach the closest herd which tested positive the preceding year), and ln (potential trojan dams + 1) (1.29 (1.05, 1.60)). The same variables were retained in the model where herds with confirmed transient infections only (n = 25) were excluded. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that care with biosecurity at farm boundaries and visitors and equipment entering the farm, and avoidance or careful risk assessment of purchasing potentially pregnant animals, may help prevent introduction of BVDV to low-risk herds. At policy level, consideration of herd size, proximity to test positive herds and purchasing patterns of potentially pregnant cattle may help target surveillance measures towards the end of the eradication programme.
      223Scopus© Citations 3
  • Publication
    The bovine tuberculosis cluster in north County Sligo during 2014-16
    Background: Bovine tuberculosis (bTB, caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis) is endemic in the Irish cattle population, and the subject of a national eradication programme since the late 1950s. During 2014, a substantial area-level bTB outbreak developing in north County Sligo, necessitating the need for an enhanced response. This paper describes this outbreak, the response that was undertaken and some lessons learned. Results: In the north Sligo area between 2014 and 2016, 23 (31.9%) of restricted herds had 4 or more reactors to the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT)/animals with bTB lesions disclosed during the restriction, and the majority (55.5%) of test-positive animals were identified as standard reactors to the SICTT. The herds restricted during 2014–16 were typically larger than other herds in the study area and introduced more animals during 2013. M. bovis was also detected in local badgers, but not deer. Conclusion: This paper describes a substantial outbreak in north County Sligo over a 3-year period. A coordinated area-based approach was a key feature of the outbreak, and substantial resources were applied to bring the outbreak under control. No definitive source was identified, nor reasons why a substantial number of herds were infected over a relatively short period. A coordinated regional approach was taken, and a number of lessons were learned including the need for urgency, for a team-based approach, for a consistent message when dealing with the public, for an area-based approach, for a degree of flexibility for the breakdown manager, and for molecular tools to assist in answering key questions relating to the source and spread of M. bovis to many herds during this bTB outbreak.
      269Scopus© Citations 1
  • Publication
    Combining expert knowledge and machine-learning to classify herd types in livestock systems
    A detailed understanding of herd types is needed for animal disease control and surveillance activities, to inform epidemiological study design and interpretation, and to guide effective policy decision-making. In this paper, we present a new approach to classify herd types in livestock systems by combining expert knowledge and a machine-learning algorithm called self-organising-maps (SOMs). This approach is applied to the cattle sector in Ireland, where a detailed understanding of herd types can assist with on-going discussions on control and surveillance for endemic cattle diseases. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the SOM algorithm has been used to differentiate livestock systems. In compliance with European Union (EU) requirements, relevant data in the Irish livestock register includes the birth, movements and disposal of each individual bovine, and also the sex and breed of each bovine and its dam. In total, 17 herd types were identified in Ireland using 9 variables. We provide a data-driven classification tree using decisions derived from the Irish livestock registration data. Because of the visual capabilities of the SOM algorithm, the interpretation of results is relatively straightforward and we believe our approach, with adaptation, can be used to classify herd type in any other livestock system.
      215Scopus© Citations 15
  • Publication
    Inferring bovine tuberculosis transmission between cattle and badgers via the environment and risk mapping
    Bovine tuberculosis (bTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, is one of the most challenging and persistent health issues in many countries worldwide. In several countries, bTB control is complicated due to the presence of wildlife reservoirs of infection, i.e. European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland and the UK, which can transmit infection to cattle. However, a quantitative understanding of the role of cattle and badgers in bTB transmission is elusive, especially where there is spatial variation in relative density between badgers and cattle. Moreover, as these two species have infrequent direct contact, environmental transmission is likely to play a role, but the quantitative importance of the environment has not been assessed. Therefore, the objective of this study is to better understand bTB transmission between cattle and badgers via the environment in a spatially explicit context and to identify high-risk areas. We developed an environmental transmission model that incorporates both within-herd/territory transmission and between-species transmission, with the latter facilitated by badger territories overlapping with herd areas. Model parameters such as transmission rate parameters and the decay rate parameter of M. bovis were estimated by maximum likelihood estimation using infection data from badgers and cattle collected during a 4-year badger vaccination trial. Our estimation showed that the environment can play an important role in the transmission of bTB, with a half-life of M. bovis in the environment of around 177 days. Based on the estimated transmission rate parameters, we calculate the basic reproduction ratio (R) within a herd, which reveals how relative badger density dictates transmission. In addition, we simulated transmission in each small local area to generate a first between-herd R map that identifies high-risk areas.
      29Scopus© Citations 1
  • Publication
    Potential infection-control benefit of measures to mitigate the risk posed by Trojan dams in the Irish BVD eradication programme
    In the epidemiology of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), Trojan dams (animals that are not persistently infected (PI) with BVD (BVDv) virus but carrying PI foetuses) are a vehicle through which infection can be transmitted. We investigated the degree to which restricting movement of cattle from BVDv infected herds would prevent Trojan births in other herds (effectiveness) and the extent to which this would reduce other, non-Trojan, movements (proportionality). We focussed on Irish herds with BVD + animal(s) present during 2014 and/or 2015. The effect of restricting movements of female animals over 12 months of age from these herds was compared with data collected on Trojan dams that calved in 2015. Four different potential restriction lengths were considered, varying from the period when a BVD + animal was present in the herd, to extending this to 12 months after removal of the last BVD + animal. In terms of effectiveness, none of the four restriction measures evaluated was effective at preventing the movement of all Trojan dams. Between 18.3% and 37.3% of Trojan births in 2015 would have been prevented under the proposed measures, and all Trojan births would have been prevented in between 14.4% and 32.5% of herds with BVD + births. In terms of proportionality, between 4.4% and 15.4% of all females > 12 months of age that moved between herds during 2015 would have been prevented from moving, and between 3.5% and 10.1% of Irish herds with at least one such movement would have been affected. These results show how measures to control the movement of Trojan dams should be targeted in a way that fits the Irish context and reduces the spread of BVDv, without unduly impacting other trade.
      369Scopus© Citations 5
  • Publication
    Modelling transmission of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis between Irish dairy cattle herds
    Bovine paratuberculosis is an endemic disease caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map). Map is mainly transmitted between herds through movement of infected but undetected animals. Our objective was to investigate the effect of observed herd characteristics on Map spread on a national scale in Ireland. Herd characteristics included herd size, number of breeding bulls introduced, number of animals purchased and sold, and number of herds the focal herd purchases from and sells to. We used these characteristics to classify herds in accordance with their probability of becoming infected and of spreading infection to other herds. A stochastic individual-based model was used to represent herd demography and Map infection dynamics of each dairy cattle herd in Ireland. Data on herd size and composition, as well as birth, death, and culling events were used to characterize herd demography. Herds were connected with each other through observed animal trade movements. Data consisted of 13 353 herds, with 4 494 768 dairy female animals, and 72 991 breeding bulls. We showed that the probability of an infected animal being introduced into the herd increases both with an increasing number of animals that enter a herd via trade and number of herds from which animals are sourced. Herds that both buy and sell a lot of animals pose the highest infection risk to other herds and could therefore play an important role in Map spread between herds.
      385
  • Publication
    Eradicating BVD, reviewing Irish programme data and model predictions to support prospective decision making
    Bovine Viral Diarrhoea is an infectious production disease of major importance in many cattle sectors of the world. The infection is predominantly transmitted by animal contact. Postnatal infections are transient, leading to immunologically protected cattle. However, for a certain window of pregnancy, in utero infection of the foetus results in persistently infected (PI) calves being the major risk of BVD spread, but also an efficient target for controlling the infection. There are two acknowledged strategies to identify PI animals for removal: tissue tag testing (direct; also known as the Swiss model) and serological screening (indirect by interpreting the serological status of the herd; the Scandinavian model). Both strategies are effective in reducing PI prevalence and herd incidence. During the first four years of the Irish national BVD eradication programme (2013–16), it has been mandatory for all newborn calves to be tested using tissue tag testing. During this period, PI incidence has substantially declined. In recent times, there has been interest among stakeholders in a change to an indirect testing strategy, with potential benefit to the overall programme, particularly with respect to cost to farmers. Advice was sought on the usefulness of implementing the necessary changes. Here we review available data from the national eradication programme and strategy performance predictions from an expert system model to quantify expected benefits of the strategy change from strategic, budgetary and implementation points of view. Key findings from our work include (i) drawbacks associated with changes to programme implementation, in particular the loss of epidemiological information to allow real-time monitoring of eradication progress or to reliably predict time to eradication, (ii) the fact that only 25% of the herds in the Irish cattle sector (14% beef, 78% dairy herds) would benefit financially from a change to serosurveillance, with half of these participants benefiting by less than EUR 75 per annum at herd level or an average of EUR 1.22 per cow, and (iii) opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of the current programme, particularly in terms of time to eradication, through enforced compliance with PI removal as currently outlined in programme recommendations. The assembled information provides scientific arguments, contributing to an informed debate of the pros and cons of a change in eradication strategy in Ireland.
      664Scopus© Citations 31
  • Publication
    The Irish cattle population structured by enterprise type: overview, trade & trends
    Background: The cattle sector is the most important economic production unit of the Irish farming and agri-food sector. Despite its relevance, there has been limited quantitative information about the structure of differing cattle production types and of the connections between them. This paper addresses this gap by providing, for the first time, an overview of the Irish cattle population structured by enterprise type. Methods & Results: We collected data from the cattle register for the period 2015 to 2019 and assigned registered herds to one of 18 different herd types using a recently published herd type classification approach. This allows, for the first time, to exploring changes in enterprise types and subtypes over time, and describing the movements between these subtypes and from these subtypes to slaughter. Conclusions: The overview and associated classification presented in this study will form the basis for a number of future comparative studies, including cross-sectoral assessments of profitability, estimation of the extent of animal health losses on Irish cattle farms or structural analysis of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions across production systems.
      259Scopus© Citations 2
  • Publication
    Spatial and network characteristics of Irish cattle movements
    Our aim was to examine, for the first time, the spatial and network characteristics of cattle movements between herds in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), to inform policy and research of relevance to the surveillance and management of disease in Irish cattle. We analysed movements in 2016 as discrete herd to herd pairings (degree), herd to herd pairings by date of move (contacts) and herd to herd pairings by date and individual animal (transfers), and looked at each of these as movements out of a herd (out degree, out contacts, out transfers) and into a herd (in degree, in contacts, in transfers). We found that the frequency distributions, by herd, of these six move types were all heavily right skewed but in the case of the ‘out’ data types more closely followed a log-normal than the scale free distribution often reported for livestock movement data. For each distinct herd to herd contact in a given direction, over 90 % occurred only once, whereas the maximum number of occurrences was 62. Herd-level Spearman rank correlations between inward moves (represented as in degree, in contacts, in transfers) and outward moves (out degree, out contacts, out transfers) were weak or even negative whereas correlations between different measures of outward moves or inward moves (e.g. out degree vs. out contacts, in transfers vs. in degree) were stronger. Correlations between these variables and the network measure betweenness varied between r = 0.513 and r = 0.587. Some herds took part in a relatively large number of movements whilst also retaining their cattle for long periods (> 100 days) between moves. In and out degree, contacts and transfers were mapped across Ireland on a 5 km grid, and additionally normalized per 1000 animals and per herd. We found considerable variation in the number of movements by county. Approximately half of transfers were conducted within a single county, but the number and distance of between county movements varied considerably by county of origin and county of destination, with the proportion of moves completed within a single county correlated with its size. Herds exchanging cattle via a market were generally further apart than when moves were made directly herd to herd. For contacts, the distances moved away from the herd were on average greater for origin herds in the west of ROI whereas distances moved to a herd were generally greater for destination herds in the centre-east and the north-west.Our aim was to examine, for the first time, the spatial and network characteristics of cattle movements between herds in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), to inform policy and research of relevance to the surveillance and management of disease in Irish cattle. We analysed movements in 2016 as discrete herd to herd pairings (degree), herd to herd pairings by date of move (contacts) and herd to herd pairings by date and individual animal (transfers), and looked at each of these as movements out of a herd (out degree, out contacts, out transfers) and into a herd (in degree, in contacts, in transfers). We found that the frequency distributions, by herd, of these six move types were all heavily right skewed but in the case of the ‘out’ data types more closely followed a log-normal than the scale free distribution often reported for livestock movement data. For each distinct herd to herd contact in a given direction, over 90 % occurred only once, whereas the maximum number of occurrences was 62. Herd-level Spearman rank correlations between inward moves (represented as in degree, in contacts, in transfers) and outward moves (out degree, out contacts, out transfers) were weak or even negative whereas correlations between different measures of outward moves or inward moves (e.g. out degree vs. out contacts, in transfers vs. in degree) were stronger. Correlations between these variables and the network measure betweenness varied between r = 0.513 and r = 0.587. Some herds took part in a relatively large number of movements whilst also retaining their cattle for long periods (> 100 days) between moves. In and out degree, contacts and transfers were mapped across Ireland on a 5 km grid, and additionally normalized per 1000 animals and per herd. We found considerable variation in the number of movements by county. Approximately half of transfers were conducted within a single county, but the number and distance of between county movements varied considerably by county of origin and county of destination, with the proportion of moves completed within a single county correlated with its size. Herds exchanging cattle via a market were generally further apart than when moves were made directly herd to herd. For contacts, the distances moved away from the herd were on average greater for origin herds in the west of ROI whereas distances moved to a herd were generally greater for destination herds in the centre-east and the north-west.
      173Scopus© Citations 16
  • Publication
    Sampling Methodology to Maximize the Efficient Use of National Abattoir Surveillance: Using Archived Sera to Substantiate Freedom From Bluetongue Virus Infection in Ireland
    In recent years, there has been increasing recognition of the value of multiple data sources available to fulfill surveillance objectives, and the use of these has been applied to address many questions relating to animal health surveillance. In Ireland, we face a slightly different problem, namely, best use of an existing surveillance resource (serological samples collected over many years from cull cows at slaughter), which has been used to substantiate freedom from Brucella abortus following its successful eradication in 2009. In this study, we evaluate a sampling methodology to use this resource to substantiate freedom from bluetongue virus (BTV) infection. An examination of the degree to which cull cows were resident in the same herd throughout the midge biting season showed that, of 50,640 samples collected between 17 October and 23 December 2016, 80.2% were from animals resident in the same herd between 01 April 2016 and 2 months prior to their slaughter date, 74.1% for 1 month prior, 70.1% for 2 weeks prior, 66.4% for 1 week prior, and 56.4% up to 1 day prior to slaughter. An examination was made of the degree to which individual samples within the same 88-well frozen storage block came from geographically clustered herds, whether from a concentration of animals from the same herd in a single block, or from clustering around the slaughterhouse where the samples were taken. On the basis of these analyses, a sampling strategy was derived aimed at minimizing the number of storage blocks which needed to be thawed, whilst ensuring a large enough and representative sample, geographically stratified according to the bovine population of 51 squares, each 45 × 45 km, covering the entirety of Ireland. None of the 503 samples tested were positive for BTV, providing reassurance of national BTV freedom. More broadly, the study demonstrates the use of abattoir-based serological samples collected for one large scale surveillance programme in surveillance for other bovine infections.
      419Scopus© Citations 4