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

DOI: 10.1186/1746-6148-2-11

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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.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.Mathematical modelling approaches are increasingly being employed to inform disease control strategies. Interest in these techniques in this context has been greatly augmented by recent disease outbreaks within the British cattle population. The accuracy of such models relies upon accurate estimates of population structure as temporal trends in the births, deaths and movements of cattle may impact substantially on pathogen transmission dynamics. For instance, birth rate may affect rapidity of spread due to supply of susceptible individuals into t


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