Sunday, June 16, 2019

Study links cattle movements to infection

April 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Buying and selling cattle can spread infections that cause major health, welfare and economic problems for the British farming industry, suggests a study.

Complex networks of “contact chains” between British farms were investigated by veterinary researcher Helen Fielding from Exeter University. Researchers analysed 75 million cattle movements between farms from 2001-2015.

By looking at 12 month periods of trading, the study found that around half of all British cattle farms were connected to more than 1,000 other farms every year when they bought in cattle. Some 16% of farms were connected to more than 10,000 other farms in a single year.

When selling cattle, the contact chains were similarly extensive. Some two-thirds of farms were connected to more than 1,000 other farms, with 15% of farms again linked to more than 10,000 farms in a single year.

More than 13,000 farms had contact chains extending to more than 10,000 other farms by selling and more than 10,000 farms by buying, in any single year. These super-connected farms could potentially be particularly exposed to infections and particularly able to spread them.

The study findings were published last month by the Royal Society.

Ms Fielding said: “We found that farms, even if they only bought cattle from one or two other farms, could be at the end of a chain connecting their farm and their animals to several thousand other farms.”

One farm in Devon bought only six cattle in one year. Those six cattle came from four farms, and those four farms were connected in two steps back to ten others. Tracking back 12 months, the sequence of links to the one Devon farm extended to 11,132 farms.

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