Potential of bovine fallen stock data as a surveillance tool

Researchers from IRTA-CReSA (Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food from the Government of Catalonia)  in collaboration with scientists from Spain, Canada and Sweden have demonstrated that data related to fallen stock provide valuable information for epidemiological surveillance of animal population health, and constitute a potential source in the field of veterinary syndromic surveillance.

The combination of classical and novel approaches may help not only to design more efficient systems of syndromic surveillance, but also to assess the impact of health intervention measures applied or changes that occur over extended time periods.

In the European Union, the collection of fallen stock at farm level has been compulsory since 2002. In some regions, such as Catalonia (in North-Eastern Spain), these data are automatically registered by animal health authorities and carcass disposal services. Despite the unspecific nature of fallen stock data, the utility of such data in conjunction with other parameters has been demonstrated to be useful as an indicator of cattle health. Fallen stock include animals that have died as a result of many health or nutritional problems, natural disasters or that have been killed on a farm for reasons other than for human consumption.

This study, led by Dr Ana Alba, was based on data from 193,873 disposal visits carried out between 2004 and 2012 across a total of 2,991 bovine farms, and analyses the time series patterns associated with bovine fallen stock at both regional (Catalonia) and various subpopulation levels. This work combines classical and novel methods of time series analyses, as ARIMA or hierarchical time series.  This study proposes an approach for determining robust algorithms that can extract the basal patterns of bovine fallen stock at large and small scale. The method allows the comparison of baselines for different subpopulations and the identification at finer scale of abnormal events in small subpopulations

Proxy measurements such as the number of disposal visits carried out and the weight of carcasses collected were used. Both outcomes were aggregated weekly at different geographical scales for three production types (beef cattle, dairy cattle and heifer fattening). The analysis of these data combined autoregressive integrated moving average modeling and hierarchical time series methods. The three production types exhibited historical baselines that differed notably from one another and these patterns were assessed and compared at regional, provincial, county and municipal levels. The use of hierarchical time series approaches appeared to be a useful tool for comparing the patterns within different subpopulations over time as well as for assessing the spatial extent to which various abnormal events could be detected.

This collaborative work was carried out by researchers of IRTA-CReSA, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain; Department of Disease Control and Epidemiology, National Veterinary Institute (SVA), Uppsala, Sweden; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and Natural Environment, Government of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain; Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research, AVC, University Prince Edward Island (UPEI), Charlottetown, Canada; and Departament de Matemàtiques, UAB, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain.

Spatial distribution of the cattle farms included in this study

This work has been recently published in:

Alba A, Dórea FC, Arinero L, Sanchez J, Cordón R, Puig P, et al. (2015) Exploring the Surveillance Potential of Mortality Data: Nine Years of Bovine Fallen Stock Data Collected in Catalonia (Spain). PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122547.

About IRTA:

IRTA is a research institute devoted to R+D+I in a variety of agri-food areas, such as vegetal production, animal production, food industries, environment and global change, and agri-food economy. The transfer of scientific advances contribute to the modernization, competitiveness and sustainable development of agriculture, food and aquaculture sectors, the supply of healthy and quality foods for consumers and, consequently, improving the welfare of the population. IRTA is assigned to the Departament d’Agricultura, Ramaderia, Pesca, Alimentació i Medi Natural (DAAM, Department of Agriculture) of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia).

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