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Scholarly Communication

Identifying temporal variation in reported births, deaths and movements of cattle in Britain

Robinson, Susan E. and Christley, Rob M (2006) Identifying temporal variation in reported births, deaths and movements of cattle in Britain. BMC Veterinary Research, 2 . Article Number: 11. ISSN 1746-6148

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



Background: The accuracy of predicting disease occurrence using epidemic models relies on an understanding of the system or population under investigation. At the time of the Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) outbreak of 2001, there were limited reports in the literature as to the cattle population structure in Britain. In this paper we examine the temporal patterns of cattle births, deaths, imports and movements occurring within Britain, reported to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) through the British Cattle Movement service (BCMS) during the period 1st January 2002 to 28th February 2005. Results: In Britain, the number of reported cattle births exhibit strong seasonality characterised by a large spring peak followed by a smaller autumn peak. Other event types also exhibit strong seasonal trends; both the reported number of cattle slaughtered and "on-farm" cattle deaths increase during the final part of the year. After allowing for seasonal components by smoothing the data, we illustrate that there is very little remaining non-seasonal trend in the number of cattle births, "on-farm" deaths, slaughterhouse deaths, on- and off-movements. However after allowing for seasonal fluctuations the number of cattle imports has been decreasing since 2002. Reporting of movements, births and deaths was more frequent on certain days of the week. For instance, greater numbers of cattle were slaughtered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Evidence for digit preference was found in the reporting of births and "on-farm" deaths with particular bias towards over reporting on the 1st, 10th and 20th of each month. Conclusion: This study provides insight into the population and movement dynamics of the British cattle population. Although the population is in constant flux, seasonal and long term trends can be identified in the number of reported births, deaths and movements of cattle. Incorporating this temporal variation in epidemic disease modelling may result in more accurate model predictions and may usefully inform future surveillance strategies.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Published: 30 March 2006. 14 pages (page numbers not for citation purposes).
Uncontrolled Keywords:British cattle population; cattle births; deaths; imports and movements; Britain; British Cattle Movement
Subjects:S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Departments, Research Centres and Related Units:Academic Faculties, Institutes and Research Centres > Faculty of Veterinary Science > Department of Veterinary Clinical Science
Publisher's Statement:© 2006 Robinson and Christley; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Related URLs:
ID Code:138
Deposited On:11 Oct 2007 12:11
Last Modified:20 May 2011 19:07

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