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Herd size and bovine tuberculosis persistence in cattle farms in Great Britain

Brooks-Pollock, Ellen, Keeling, Matt
Preventive veterinary medicine 2009 v.92 no.4 pp. 360-365
disease prevalence, cattle, models, risk factors, herd size, agricultural subsidies, farm size, bovine tuberculosis, economic policy, traceability, Great Britain
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infection in cattle is one of the most complex and persistent problems faced by the cattle industry in Great Britain today. While a number of factors have been identified as increasing the risk of infection, there has been little analysis on the causes of persistent infection within farms. In this article, we use the Cattle Tracing System to examine changes in herd size and VetNet data to correlate herd size with clearance of bTB. We find that the number of active farms fell by 16.3% between 2002 and 2007. The average farm size increased by 17.9% between 2002 and 2005. Using a measure similar to the Critical Community Size, the VetNet data reveal that herd size is positively correlated with disease persistence. Since economic policy and subsidies have been shown to influence farm size, we used a simple financial model for ideal farm size which includes disease burden to conclude that increasing herd size for efficiency gains may contribute to increased disease incidence.