Network analysis of pig movements: Loyalty patterns and contact chains of different holding types in Denmark
Understanding animal movements is an important factor for the development of meaningful surveillance and control programs, but also for the development of disease spread models. We analysed the Danish pig movement network using static and temporal network analysis tools to provide deeper insight in the connection between holdings dealing with pigs, such as breeding and multiplier herds, production herds, slaughterhouses or traders. Pig movements, which occurred between 1st January 2006 and 31st December 2015 in Denmark, were summarized to investigate temporal trends such as the number of active holdings, the number of registered movements and the number of pigs moved. To identify holdings and holding types with potentially higher risk for introduction or spread of diseases via pig movements, we determined loyalty patterns, annual network components and contact chains for the 24 registered holding types. The total number of active holdings as well as the number of pig movements decreased during the study period while the holding sizes increased. Around 60–90% of connections between two pig holdings were present in two consecutive years and around one third of the connections persisted within the considered time period. Weaner herds showed the highest level of in-loyalty, whereas we observed an intermediate level of in-loyalty for all breeding sites and for production herds. Boar stations, production herds and trade herds showed a high level of out-loyalty. Production herds constituted the highest proportion of holdings in the largest strongly connected component. All production sites showed low levels of in-going contact chains and we observed a high level of out-going contact chain for breeding and multiplier herds. Except for livestock auctions, all transit sites also showed low levels of out-going contact chains. Our results reflect the pyramidal structure of the underlying network. Based on the considered disease, the time frame for the calculation of network measurements needs to be adapted. Using these adapted values for loyalty and contact chains might help to identify holdings with high potential of spreading diseases and thus limit the outbreak size or support control or eradication of the considered pathogen.