Modeling Livestock Population Structure: A Geospatial Database for Ontario Swine Farms

Infectious diseases in farmed animals have economic, social, and health consequences. Foreign animal diseases (FAD) of swine are of significant concern. Mathematical and simulation models are often used to simulate FAD outbreaks and best practices for control. However, simulation outcomes are sensitive to the population structure used. Within Canada, access to individual swine farm population data with which to parameterize models is a challenge because of privacy concerns. Our objective was to develop a methodology to model the farmed swine population in Ontario, Canada that could represent the existing population structure and improve the efficacy of simulation models.

We developed a swine population model based on the factors such as facilities supporting farm infrastructure, land availability, zoning and local regulations, and natural geographic barriers that could affect swine farming in Ontario. Assigned farm locations were equal to the swine farm density described in the 2011 Canadian Census of Agriculture. Farms were then randomly assigned to farm types proportional to the existing swine herd types. We compared the swine population models with a known database of swine farm locations in Ontario and found that the modeled population was representative of farm locations with a high accuracy (AUC: 0.91, Standard deviation: 0.02) suggesting that our algorithm generated a reasonable approximation of farm locations in Ontario.

In the absence of a readily accessible dataset providing details of the relative locations of swine farms in Ontario, development of a model livestock population that captures key characteristics of the true population structure while protecting privacy concerns is an important methodological advancement. This methodology will be useful for individuals interested in modeling the spread of pathogens between farms across a landscape and using these models to evaluate disease control strategies.

Khan SU, O'Sullivan TL, Poljak Z, Alsop J, Greer AL; Modeling Livestock Population Structure: A Geospatial Database for Ontario Swine Farms; BMC Vet Res. 2018 Jan 30;14(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s12917-018-1362-y. PMID: 29382338 DOI: 10.1186/s12917-018-1362-y