Multi‑species temporal network of livestock movements for disease spread

Anne‑Sophie Ruget, Gianluigi Rossi, P. Theo Pepler, Gaël Beaunée, Christopher J. Banks, Jessica Enright and Rowland R. Kao


Introduction: The objective of this study is to show the importance of interspecies links and temporal network dynamics of a multi‑species livestock movement network. Although both cattle and sheep networks have been previously studied, cattle‑sheep multi‑species networks have not generally been studied in‑depth. The central question of this study is how the combination of cattle and sheep movements affects the potential for disease spread on the combined network.

Materials and methods: Our analysis considers static and temporal representations of networks based on recorded animal movements. We computed network‑based node importance measures of two single‑species networks, and compared the top‑ranked premises with the ones in the multi‑species network. We propose the use of a measure based on contact chains calculated in a network weighted with transmission probabilities to assess the importance of premises in an outbreak. To ground our investigation in infectious disease epidemiology, we compared this suggested measure with the results of disease simulation models with asymmetric probabilities of transmission between species.

Results: Our analysis of the temporal networks shows that the premises which are likely to drive the epidemic in this multi‑species network differ from the ones in both the cattle and the sheep networks. Although sheep movements are highly seasonal, the estimated size of an epidemic is significantly larger in the multi‑species network than in the cattle network, independently of the period of the year. Finally, we demonstrate that a measure based on contact chains allow us to identify around 30% of the key farms in a simulated epidemic, ignoring markets, whilst static network measures identify less than 10% of these farms.

Conclusion: Our results ascertain the importance of combining species networks, as well as considering layers of temporal livestock movements in detail for the study of disease spread.

Keywords: Livestock movements, Multi‑species, Network analysis, Temporal network, Stochastic simulations

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