Culling decisions of dairy farmers during a 3-year ...



Title Culling decisions of dairy farmers during a 3-year Salmonella control study
Author(s) L.R. Nielsen, I. Dohoo
Journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine
Date 2011
Volume 100
Issue 1
Start page 29
End page 37
Abstract Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica-serotypes lead to periodically increased morbidity and mortality in cattle herds. The bacteria can also lead to serious infections in humans. Consequently, Denmark has started a surveillance and control programme in 2002. The programme focuses on Salmonella Dublin which is the most prevalent and most persistent serotype in the Danish cattle population. A field study in 10 dairy herds with persistent Salmonella infections was carried out over three years to gain experience with control procedures including risk assessment, targeted control actions and test-and-cull procedures. From autumn 2003 until end of 2006 quarterly milk quality control samples from all lactating cows and biannual blood samples from all young stock above the age of three months were tested using an indirect antibody ELISA. The most recent and previous test results were used to categorise all animals into risk groups. These risk groups and all individual ELISA-results were communicated to the farmers as colour-coded lists four to six times per year. Farmers were advised to manage the risk of Salmonella transmission from cattle with repeatedly high ELISA results (flagged as “red”) or cows with at least one recent moderately high ELISA result (flagged as “yellow”) on the lists. Risk management included, e.g. culling or separation of the cows at calving. We analysed culling decisions using two models. For heifers a hierarchical multivariable logistic model with herd as random effect evaluated if animals with red and yellow flags had higher probability of being slaughtered or sold before first calving than animals without any risk flags. For adult cows a semi-parametric proportional hazard survival model was used to test the effect of number of red and yellow flags on hazards of culling at different time points and interactions with prevalence in the herd while accounting for parity, stage of lactation, milk yield, somatic cell count and the hierarchical structure of the data with animals clustered at herd level. This study illustrates how investigation of culling decisions made by herd managers when they have access to test-status of individual animals and overall apparent prevalence during control of an infection can lead to useful new knowledge. Overall herd managers were more likely to cull cattle with increasing number of yellow and red flags than animals with no flags. However, cattle were more likely to be culled with yellow and red flags during times with low or medium high within-herd seroprevalence than at times with high seroprevalence. These results are valuable knowledge for modelling and planning of control strategies and for making recommendations to farmers about control options.
DOI 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.03.001

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