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Estimating the herd and cow level prevalence of bovine digital dermatitis on New Zealand dairy farms: A Bayesian superpopulation approach

Yang, D.A., Johnson, W.O., Müller, K.R., Gates, M.C., Laven, R.A.
Preventive veterinary medicine 2019 v.165 pp. 76-84
Bayesian theory, cows, cross-sectional studies, dairy farming, dairy herds, dermatitis, diagnostic techniques, farms, lactation, models, risk factors, New Zealand
A cross-sectional study of 127 dairy herds distributed across four regions of New Zealand (NZ) was conducted to estimate the regional herd-level prevalence of bovine digital dermatitis (BDD) and the prevalence of cows with BDD lesions within affected herds. Each herd was visited once during the 2016–2017 lactating season and the rear feet of all cows in the milking herd were examined to detect the presence of BDD lesions. Of the 127 herds examined, 63 had at least one cow with a detected BDD lesion. Of the 59 849 cows observed, 646 cows were observed with BDD lesions. All of the herds in which BBD was detected were located in three of the four regions (Waikato, Manawatu and South Canterbury). No convincing lesions were observed on the West Coast. The probability of BDD freedom on the West Coast was predicted to be 99.97% using a Bayesian latent class model. For the three regions where BDD lesions were observed, the true herd level and cow level prevalences were estimated using a Bayesian superpopulation approach which accounted for the imperfect diagnostic method. Based on priors obtained from previous research in another region of NZ (Taranaki), the true herd level prevalences in Waikato, Manawatu and South Canterbury were estimated to be 59.2% (95% probability interval [PI]: 44.3%–73.9%), 43.3% (95%PI: 29%–59%) and 65.9% (95%PI: 49.5%–79.9%), respectively, while the true median within-herd prevalences were estimated as 3.2% (95%PI: 2%–5%), 1.7% (95%PI: 0.9%–3.1%) and 3.7% (95%PI: 2.4%–5.5%), respectively. All of these estimates except for the true herd level prevalence in Manawatu were fairly robust to changes in the priors. For Manawatu region, changing from the prior obtained in Taranaki (the best estimate of the herd level prevalence = 60%, 95% sure > 40%) to one where the mode was 50% (95% sure < 80%) reduced the posterior from 43.3% to 35.2% (95%PI: 20.1%–53.5%). The marked variation in BDD prevalence between regions and between farms highlights the need for further exploration into risk factors for disease.