Cattle Networks & Bovine Tuberculosis


Networks are ubiquitous in human lives and this is no different for domestic and wild animals. Social networks exist between animals within a farm and trade networks exist between farms. There are also local connections with wildlife and neighbouring farms. These various connections represent possible disease transmission events and therefore present an opportunity to understand more about how infection spreads and how we might manipulate these networks to control it.

Helen Fielding’s research is using network analysis techniques on the British cattle movement database to consider the potential pathways along which infection might spread in Great Britain. We are exploring how to use this data to give us a better understanding of the dynamics of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis, which is currently endemic in British cattle (for more details please see here).

We are also collecting data to investigate the impact of various management factors (i.e. herd size, management groups, stocking density) on social networks of cattle. We will look to see how these different factors may then affect the transmission of diseases within farms. This will enable us better understand patterns of disease transmission and help to explore how we might be able to limit the spread of disease within a farm, particularly focusing on the spread of bovine tuberculosis. We are currently recruiting cattle farms in the South West for this project – please get in touch if you are interested in taking part!



Helen Fielding MRCVS (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald  (University of Exeter)

Dr TJ McKinley (University of Exeter)

Dr Dez Delahay (Animal and Plant Health Agency)