Mathematics and Decision-making for Salmonella on UK Pig Farms

Based on surveillance and modelling, researchers at the University of Liverpool found that the risk of Salmonella transmission is lower on farms with a broad range of effective biosecurity measures and where pigs are kept on slated floors rather than solid floors.
calendar icon 20 August 2013
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A recently completed BPEX-sponsored thesis at the University of Liverpool in the UK on the mathematics and decision-making for Salmonella on UK pig farms comprised three parts. The first part related to the time spent with the industry as part of this CASE Studentship, whilst the second and third parts related to stochastic transmission models and the analysis of interventions imposed upon these models. The second and third parts were linked by a common aim, which was to develop models to understand the dynamics of Salmonella transmission on a pig farm and thus to identify key drivers of Salmonella.

The thesis began with an assessment and analysis of a Farm Tool Questionnaire that was developed by the industry. A total of 28 farms were visited, had pooled faecal samples taken and completed the Farm Tool Questionnaire.

The main aim of this study was to pilot the developed tool and identify any areas that could be modified in order to enhance its usability. Furthermore, the results from the study were used in an attempt to highlight any possible areas of farm management that differ between Platinum farms and non-Platinum farms.

It was shown that Platinum farms were likely to adopt a subset of biosecurity practices, which should consequently encourage farms to adopt a range of biosecurity practices rather than focusing on one aspect.

The thesis then turns to the development of mathematical models in order to try and understand how the components of the system interact by using both numerical simulation and mathematical analysis. As farming methods differ considerably between farms, two key forms of unit structure were analysed: a fully slatted unit and a solid floored unit.

The models were developed using a semi-stochastic transmission model similar to Xiao et al. (2006). These were then used to assess any differences in dynamics as a result of farm structure. Finally, both sets of models were analysed in order to identify any possible interventions that could have some form of control on Salmonella prevalence at slaughter.

The models showed that the key drivers of Salmonella transmission were the amount of bacteria shed and the probability of infection after exposure. As such, interventions focusing on these aspects should be implemented in order to see the most beneficial results, according to the report.

The rate at which infection was able to spread when shedding was high was found to be of great importance within the various models; indicating that solid flooring is a potential risk factor, according to the authors.

Furthermore, as infection was able to spread quickly within the solid-floored unit, the time interval at which cleaning and disinfection were carried out could be of importance. However, this would require further investigation, the researchers added.

Published papers


  • Xiao Y., D. Clancy, N.P. French and R.G. Bowers. 2006. A semi-stochastic model for Salmonella infection in a multi-group herd. Mathematical Biosciences, 200(2):214-233.

August 2013

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