A survey of visitors on Swedish livestock farms with reference to the spread of animal diseases
1 Department of Disease Control and Epidemiology, SVA, National Veterinary Institute, 751 89 Uppsala, Sweden
2 Department of Animal Environment and Health, SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 234, SE-532 23 Skara, Sweden
3 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health, SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7028, 750 05 Uppsala, Sweden
BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:184 doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-184Published: 16 September 2013
In addition to livestock movements, other between-farm contacts such as visitors may contribute to the spread of contagious animal diseases. Knowledge about such contacts is essential for contingency planning. Preventive measures, risk-based surveillance and contact tracing may be facilitated if the frequency and type of between-farm contacts can be assessed for different types of farms. The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency and types of visitors on farms with cloven-hoofed animals in Sweden and to analyse whether there were differences in the number of visitors attributable to region, season, and type of herd. Data were collected from Swedish farmers through contact-logs covering two-week periods during four different seasons.
In total, 482 (32%) farmers filled in the contact log for at least one period and the data represent 18,416 days. The average number of professional and non-professional visitors per day was 0.3 and 0.8, respectively. Whereas the number of professional visitors seemed to increase with increasing herd size, this relation was not seen for non-professional visits. The mean numbers of visitors per day were highest in the summer and in the farm category ‘small mixed farm’. Reports of the visitors’ degree of contact with the animals showed that veterinarians, AI-technicians, animal transporters and neighbours were often in direct contact with the animals or entered the stables and 8.8% of the repairmen were also in direct contact with animals, which was unexpected. In a multivariable analysis, species, herd size and season were significantly associated with the number of professional visitors as well as the number of visitors in direct contact with the animals.
In conclusion there was a large variation between farms in the number and type of contacts. The number of visitors that may be more likely to spread diseases between farms was associated with animal species and herd size.