Temporal stability of swine movement networks in the U.S.

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6 Scopus citations


As a consequence of multi-site pig production practiced in North America, frequent and widespread animal movements create extensive networks of interaction between farms. Social network analysis (SNA) has been used to understand disease transmission risks within these complex and dynamic production ecosystems and is particularly relevant for designing risk-based surveillance and control strategies targeting highly connected farms. However, inferences from SNA and the effectiveness of targeted strategies may be influenced by temporal changes in network structure. Since farm movements represent a temporally dynamic network, it is also unclear how many months of data are required to gain an accurate picture of an individual farm's connectivity pattern and the overall network structure. The extent to which shipments between two specific farms are repeated (i.e., “loyalty” of farm contacts) can influence the rate at which the structure of a network changes over time, which may influence disease dynamics. In this study, we aimed to describe temporal stability and loyalty patterns of pig movement networks in the U.S. swine industry. We analyzed a total of 282,807 animal movements among 2724 farms belonging to two production systems between 2014 and 2017. Loyalty trends were largely driven by contacts between sow farms and nurseries and between nurseries and finisher farms; mean loyalty (percent of contacts that were repeated at least once within a 52-week interval) of farm contacts was 51–60 % for farm contacts involving weaned pigs, and 12–22% for contacts involving feeder pigs. A cyclic pattern was observed for both weaned and feeder pig movements, with episodes of increased loyalty observed at intervals of 8 and 17–20 weeks, respectively. Network stability was achieved when six months of data were aggregated, and only small shifts in node-level and global network metrics were observed when adding more data. This stability is relevant for designing targeted surveillance programs for disease management, given that movements summarized over too short a period may lead to stochastic swings in network metrics. A temporal resolution of six months would be reliable for the identification of potential super-spreaders in a network for targeted intervention and disease control. The temporal stability observed in these networks suggests that identifying highly connected farms in retrospective network data (up to 24 months) is reliable for future planning, albeit with reduced effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105369
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online dateMay 3 2021
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge Cesar Corzo, Emily Smith, Juan Sanhueza, Carles Vilalta, and Emily Geary for their role in collating and interpreting data. We also express our thanks to MSHMP participating pig production companies and practitioners for sharing their data. This study was partially funded by the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) . Funding was also provided by the joint NIFA-NSF-NIH Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease grant no. 2019-67015-29918 and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive grant no. 2018-68008-27890 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Animal movements
  • Contact chains
  • Infectious disease transmission
  • Temporal networks

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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