Bovine mortality: the utility of two data sources for the provision of population-level surveillance intelligence

JI Eze*, C Correia-Gomes, GJ Gunn, SC Tongue

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: The use of existing data to provide surveillance intelligence is widely advocated but often presents considerable challenges. Two data sources could be used as proxies for the mortality experienced by the Scottish cattle population: deaths recorded in the mandatory register [Cattle Tracing System (CTS)] and fallen stock collections by the National Fallen Stock Company (NSFCo) with a nationwide voluntary membership.

Methods: Data for the period 2011–2016 were described and compared to establish their strengths and limitations. Similarities and differences in their temporal, seasonal and spatial patterns were examined overall, at postcode area level and for different age groups. Temporal aberration detection algorithms (TADA) were fitted.

Results: Broadly, similar patterns were observed in the two datasets; however, there were some notable differences. The observed seasonal, annual and spatial patterns match expectations, given knowledge of Scottish cattle production systems. The registry data provide more comprehensive coverage of all areas of Scotland, while collections data provide a more comprehensive measure of the mortality experienced in 0–1-month-old calves.

Discussion: Consequently, estimates of early calf mortality and their impact on the livestock sector made using CTS, or successor registers, will be under-estimates. This may apply to other registry-based systems. Fitted TADA detected points of deviations from expected norms some of which coincided in the two datasets; one with a known external event that caused increased mortality. We have demonstrated that both data sources do have the potential to be utilized to provide measures of mortality in the Scottish cattle population that could inform surveillance activities. While neither is perfect, they are complementary. Each has strengths and weaknesses, so ideally, a system where they are analyzed and interpreted in parallel would optimize the information obtained for surveillance purposes for epidemiologists, risk managers, animal health policy-makers and the wider livestock industry sector. This study provides a foundation on which to build an operational system. Further development will require improvements in the timeliness of data availability and further investment of resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1270329
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Early online date7 Feb 2024
Publication statusFirst published - 7 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Eze, Correia-Gomes, Gunn and Tongue.


  • Surveillance, cattle tracing scheme, bovine, mortality, fallen stock, aberration detection


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