What is it about?

This research is part of the BBSRC-funded Farmer-led Epidemic and Endemic Disease-management (FEED) project, an interdisciplinary research group including epidemiologists, mathematical modellers, behavioural scientists and veterinarians from the Universities of Warwick and Nottingham, seeking to understand the different factors that drive farmer behaviour in the face of an emerging disease Using mathematical models, our research team examined the optimal behaviours each farmer can follow during a disease outbreak, which can help them to not only lessen their own immediate costs, but also to slow the spread of infection and reduce losses for the whole industry. To study this problem, we simulated livestock disease outbreaks in several different scenarios and worked out how the best outcomes could be reached — from the perspective of both government policymakers who are looking to protect the wider livestock industry, and from that of farmers who have businesses and animals to protect.

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Why is it important?

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial individual behaviour is in controlling the spread of an infectious disease in a human population, during a livestock infection the response of each farmer could be critical to protecting animal welfare nationally and keeping the farming industry afloat. Our findings demonstrated how what one individual farmer may consider the most effective way to reduce infection risk in their own livestock may not have the same benefit for other farmers. As a result, we would encourage the consideration of actions of individual farmers in any major policy framework for tackling future livestock disease outbreaks.


Our analysis of livestock infectious disease control policies, under differing social perspectives on vaccination behaviour, can indicate to those developing veterinary health policy the nature of control measures that is optimal both from the industry and the individual farmer-level perspectives. I also hope this article helps highlight how inter-disciplinary approaches can benefit both science and society.

Edward Hill
University of Warwick

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Modelling livestock infectious disease control policy under differing social perspectives on vaccination behaviour, PLoS Computational Biology, July 2022, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010235.
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