Many economically important cattle diseases spread between herds through livestock movements. Traditionally, most transmission models have assumed that all purchased cattle carry the same risk of generating outbreaks in the destination herd. Using data on bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) in Scotland as a case example, this study provides empirical and theoretical evidence that the risk of disease transmission varies substantially based on the animal and herd demographic characteristics at the time of purchase.
Multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed that purchasing pregnant heifers and open cows sold with a calf at foot were associated with an increased risk of beef herds being seropositive for BVDV. Based on the results from a dynamic within-herd simulation model, these findings may be partly explained by the age-related probability of animals being persistently infected with BVDV as well as the herd demographic structure at the time of animal introductions.
There was also evidence that an epidemiologically important network statistic, “betweenness centrality” (a measure frequently associated with the potential for herds to acquire and transmit disease), was significantly higher for herds that supplied these particular types of replacement beef cattle. The trends for dairy herds were not as clear, although there was some evidence that open heifers and open lactating cows were associated with an increased risk of BVDV. Overall, these findings have important implications for developing simulation models that more accurately reflect the industry-level transmission dynamics of infectious cattle diseases.