Do modellers dream of electric sheep? – Practical to mathematical and back again.

Dave Bartley


Disease agents, whether viral, bacterial or parasitic, infecting grazing domestic animals represent a significant threat to livestock health and welfare and to food security, globally. In addition, inefficiency in production due to sub-clinical disease adds significantly to a farm’s environmental footprint. Projected climatic changes over the short-medium term have implications for livestock pests and pathogens, both directly and indirectly, and will result in changing disease patterns e.g. incidence, seasonality and geographic spread. An area where interdisciplinary collaboration is mutually beneficial, and essential in order to gain a better understanding of the interactions between climatic change, pathogen dissemination and livestock productivity is between ‘fundamental’ or ‘practical’ livestock researchers and modellers. To facilitate this collaboration, there needs to be a dialogue between both parties on the data depth, quality and format required to populate different models to ensure relevant and appropriate outputs.

An example of where this type of collaboration has been used is work using an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-compliant model (CPLANv2) to calculate greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with fattening lambs over five consecutive grazing seasons. The results demonstrated that effective control of sub-clinical/clinical parasitic gastroenteritis resulted in a ~10% reduction in GHG emissions/kg live weight gain (Kenyon et al., 2013).

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