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Postal survey of contacts between cattle farms on the Isle of Lewis
  1. M. C. Vernon, MA, VetMB, MRCVS1,2,
  2. C. R. Webb, BSc, MSc, PhD1 and
  3. M. F. Heath, MA, PhD1
  1. 1Department of Veterinary Science, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ES
  2. 2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwich, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry CV4 7AL
  1. E-mail for correspondence: m.c.vernon{at}warwick.ac.uk

Abstract

The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) database contains an unprecedented quantity of data on the movement of cattle within the UK. These data may be used to construct models of the contact structure of the UK cattle herd, for epidemiological purposes. There are two significant potential sources of inaccuracy within such models: movements that are not reported or are reported inaccurately to the BCMS, and contacts between farms that might transmit infection, but are not animal movements. This field study addressed these issues. Cattle farmers on the Isle of Lewis were recruited with the assistance of the local veterinary surgeon, and asked to record a range of potential risk behaviours for a one-month period. They were also asked questions about husbandry practices on their farm. Comparison of the BCMS contact data with that reported by Lewis' farmers highlighted use of common grazing land as a significant source of contact, and potential disease transmission, between cattle that currently goes unreported; around half of responding holdings on Lewis use common grazing land at some point during the year, and these movements are not reported to the BCMS.

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