Estimating challenge load due to disease outbreaks and other challenges using reproduction records of sows

P.K. Mathur, J. Herrero-Medrano, P. Alexandri, E.F. Knol, J. ten Napel, H. Rashidi, H.A. Mulder

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15 Citations (Scopus)


A method was developed and tested to estimate challenge load due to disease outbreaks and other challenges in sows using reproduction records. The method was based on reproduction records from a farm with known disease outbreaks. It was assumed that the reduction in weekly reproductive output within a farm is proportional to the magnitude of the challenge. As the challenge increases beyond certain threshold, it is manifested as an outbreak. The reproduction records were divided into 3 datasets. The first dataset called the Training dataset consisted of 57,135 reproduction records from 10,901 sows from 1 farm in Canada with several outbreaks of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). The known disease status of sows was regressed on the traits number born alive, number of losses as a combination of still birth and mummified piglets, and number of weaned piglets. The regression coefficients from this analysis were then used as weighting factors for derivation of an index measure called challenge load indicator. These weighting factors were derived with i) a two-step approach using residuals or year-week solutions estimated from a previous step, and ii) a single-step approach using the trait values directly. Two types of models were used for each approach: a logistic regression model and a general additive model. The estimates of challenge load indicator were then compared based on their ability to detect PRRS outbreaks in a Test dataset consisting of records from 65,826 sows from 15 farms in the Netherlands. These farms differed from the Canadian farm with respect to PRRS virus strains, severity and frequency of outbreaks. The single-step approach using a general additive model was best and detected 14 out of the 15 outbreaks. This approach was then further validated using the third dataset consisting of reproduction records of 831,855 sows in 431 farms located in different countries in Europe and America. A total of 41 out of 48 outbreaks detected using data analysis were confirmed based on diagnostic information received from the farms. Among these, 30 outbreaks were due to PRRS while 11 were due to other diseases and challenging conditions. The results suggest that proposed method could be useful for estimation of challenge load and detection of challenge phases such as disease outbreaks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5374-5381
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • environment interaction
  • breeding programs
  • respiratory syndrome
  • genotype
  • pigs
  • cattle
  • models


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