Investigating the impact of farmer behaviour and farmer-led control of infectious disease outbreaks in livestock

From October 2019 I have been part of a collaborative team (joint with colleagues from the University of Warwick, University of Nottingham & University of Bristol) working on the BBSRC funded project “Investigating the impact of farmer behaviour and farmer-led control of infectious disease outbreaks in livestock”.

In the event of an outbreak of infectious disease on livestock farms, tensions may arise when inaction may be the most cost-effective strategy for an individual farmer even though this could lead to local protracted epidemics. As an extreme example, an individual farmer is in most instances better to risk infection than proactively cull their livestock; yet culling may be a powerful tool to prevent large-scale outbreaks of some diseases.

Our primary objective in this project is to quantify, predict and hence mitigate this inevitable tension between local (farmer-led) and global (nationally-enforced) control of livestock diseases. This will be achieved by predicting the differences between national-level and farmer-level optimisation of controls using mathematical models that combine disease spread and farmer behaviour. These models will be applied to three specific livestock infections that pose a threat to the UK livestock industry:

  • Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
  • Bovine tuberculosis (bTB)
  • Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD)

The University of Warwick team is led by Dr. Michael Tildesley & Professor Matt Keeling. Our modelling work is also done in collaboration with Dr. Ellen-Brooks Pollock (University of Bristol).

Our research partners at the University of Nottingham, carrying out the elicitation of farmers beliefs, are: Professor Martin Green, Professor Eamonn Ferguson & Dr. Jasmeet Kaler.

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