Date of this Version
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 194 (2021) 105423
Little is known about disease transmission relevant contact rates at the wildlife-livestock interface and the factors shaping them. Indirect contact via shared resources is thought to be important but remains unquantified in most systems, making it challenging to evaluate the impact of livestock management practices on contact networks. Free-ranging wild pigs (Sus scrofa) in North America are an invasive, socially-structured species with an expanding distribution that pose a threat to livestock health given their potential to transmit numerous livestock diseases, such as pseudorabies, brucellosis, trichinellosis, and echinococcosis, among many others. Our objective in this study was to quantify the spatial variations in direct and indirect contact rates among wild pigs and cattle on a commercial cow-calf operation in Florida, USA. Using GPS data from 20 wild pigs and 11 cattle and a continuous-time movement model, we extracted three types of spatial contacts between wild pigs and cattle, including direct contact, indirect contact in the pastoral environment (unknown naturally occurring resources), and indirect contact via anthropogenic cattle resources (feed supplements and water supply troughs). We examined the effects of sex, spatial proximity, and cattle supplement availability on contact rates at the species level and characterized wild pig usage of cattle supplements. Our results suggested daily pig-cattle direct contacts occurred only occasionally, while a significant number of pig-cattle indirect contacts occurred via natural resources distributed heterogeneously across the landscape. At cattle supplements, more indirect contacts occurred at liquid molasses than water troughs or molasses-mineral block tubs due to higher visitation rates by wild pigs. Our results can be directly used for parameterizing epidemiological models to inform risk assessment and optimal control strategies for controlling transmission of shared diseases.
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