Open Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 41, Number 2, March–April 2010
Number of page(s) 10
Published online 25 November 2009
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2010) 41:22
How to cite this article: Vet. Res. (2010) 41:22
DOI: 10.1051/vetres/2009070

Management interventions in dairy herds: Exploring within herd uncertainty using an integrated Bayesian model

Martin J. Green1, 2, Graham F. Medley3, Andrew J. Bradley1 and William J. Browne4

1  School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Sutton Bonington, LE12 5RD, United Kingdom
2  School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom
3  Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, United Kingdom
4  Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, Bristol, BS40 5DT, United Kingdom

Received 19 August 2009; accepted 23 November 2009; published online 25 November 2009

Abstract - Knowledge of the efficacy of an intervention for disease control on an individual farm is essential to make good decisions on preventive healthcare, but the uncertainty in outcome associated with undertaking a specific control strategy has rarely been considered in veterinary medicine. The purpose of this research was to explore the uncertainty in change in disease incidence and financial benefit that could occur on different farms, when two effective farm management interventions are undertaken. Bovine mastitis was used as an example disease and the research was conducted using data from an intervention study as prior information within an integrated Bayesian simulation model. Predictions were made of the reduction in clinical mastitis within 30 days of calving on 52 farms, attributable to the application of two herd interventions previously reported as effective; rotation of dry cow pasture and differential dry cow therapy. Results indicated that there were important degrees of uncertainty in the predicted reduction in clinical mastitis for individual farms when either intervention was undertaken; the magnitude of the 95% credible intervals for reduced clinical mastitis incidence were substantial and of clinical relevance. The large uncertainty associated with the predicted reduction in clinical mastitis attributable to the interventions resulted in important variability in possible financial outcomes for each farm. The uncertainty in outcome associated with farm control measures illustrates the difficulty facing a veterinary clinician when making an on-farm decision and highlights the importance of iterative herd health procedures (continual evaluation, reassessment and adjusted interventions) to optimise health in an individual herd.

Key words: disease control / dairy cow / uncertainty within herd / Bayesian model

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2009