Network analysis of cattle movements in Uruguay: Quantifying heterogeneity for risk-based disease surveillance and control

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Movement of livestock between premises is one of the foremost factors contributing to the spread of infectious diseases of livestock. In part to address this issue, the origin and destination for all cattle movements in Uruguay are registered by law. This information has great potential to be used in assessing the risk of disease spread in the Uruguayan cattle population. Here, we analyze cattle movements from 2008 to 2013 using network analysis in order to understand the flows of animals in the Uruguayan cattle industry and to identify targets for surveillance and control measures. Cattle movements were represented as seasonal and annual networks in which farms represented nodes and nodes were linked based on the frequency and quantity of cattle moved. At the farm level, the distribution of the number of unique farms each farm is connected to through outgoing and incoming movements, as well as the number of animals moved, was highly right-skewed; the majority of farms had few to no contacts, whereas the 10% most highly connected farms accounted for 72-83% of animals moved annually. This extreme level of heterogeneity in movement patterns indicates that some farms may be disproportionately important for pathogen spread. Different production types exhibited characteristic patterns of farm-level connectivity, with some types, such a dairies, showing consistently higher levels of centrality. In addition, the observed networks were characterized by lower levels of connectivity and higher levels of heterogeneity than random networks of the same size and density, both of which have major implications for disease dynamics and control strategies. This represents the first in-depth analysis of farm-level livestock movements within South America, and highlights the importance of collecting livestock movement data in order to understand the vulnerability of livestock trade networks to invasion by infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016



  • Disease risk,
  • Livestock movement
  • Pathogen transmission
  • Social network analysis
  • Surveillance

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