Along with rising costs, disease outbreaks are one of the biggest challenges facing the farming industry today. The estimated cost to the industry of the avian influenza outbreak in 2021/22 was over £100 million, meaning the impact of such epidemics is a great one. It’s vital that individual businesses and the industry as a whole use all the tools at their disposal to anticipate and prepare for disease outbreaks – not doing so can be catastrophic for poultry businesses.
One way to help prepare for the future is to look at what can be learned from the past. In the age of big data and algorithms that can interpret past information into valuable, manageable insights, there is so much that can be learned and applied to new strategies and tactics to enhance preparedness and mitigate risk levels globally.
This data is of value to farmers, industry groups, and governments in protecting livestock from future disease outbreaks as it helps to identify patterns, conduct risk assessments, and develop strategies to mitigate the effects of future outbreaks.
Past patterns help predict future outbreaks
Firstly, historical data helps to identify patterns in disease outbreaks. For example, a study of data might identify that some regions are persistently experiencing outbreaks, suggesting that there’s a specific environmental or geographical factor that needs consideration. By identifying these patterns, farmers can adjust their livestock care strategies, or make some structural adjustments, to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak.
This historical data also feeds into sophisticated forecasting models which can predict when and where disease outbreaks are most likely to occur.
Equally, by analysing past outbreaks, researchers can conduct risk assessments and then model hypothetical outbreaks based on information from the assessments. In this way, farmers and other industry players can prepare for potential outbreaks by implementing preventive biosecurity measures, improving hygiene standards, and making well-informed data driven decisions.
Historical data helps governments develop strategies
At a governmental level, the gleaning of insights from historical data is also an incredibly valuable process. Just as individual farmers might use these insights to inform their own practice, at a wider scale, governments can use this data to improve animal husbandry regulations. In the same way, this data could help industry bodies understand where to prioritise research and where best to spend funding on developing further methods of prevention.
Improved monitoring improves protection
Using historical data farmers can improve their livestock monitoring standards.
As new technologies also allow for more up-to-date tracking of every element of an individual animals’ health – from vaccination records to environmental data and any aspect of their biological health, it can make it easier to detect and diagnose potential outbreaks promptly.
Early detection and response can lower the likelihood of widespread disease outbreaks and significantly reduce operational downtime and costs.
Challenges of big data
Agriculture, like other industries, faces challenges in adapting to and making best use of the huge wealth of available data. With the range of sources, types and collection devices, there are certainly technical challenges in interoperability and integration to help with widespread adoption, not to mention the not inconsiderable cost implications.
As the age of data continues and all elements, from the collection to the application of the lessons from it, become more integrated into common practice, the application of data will be considered far more of a core competence and less of a specialism than now.
As data monitoring, storage, and analysis methods continue to evolve, businesses will need to invest in these capabilities to remain viable in the future.
Livetec: looking forward with historic data
Livetec are leveraging the power of big data to help farmers in their fight against avian influenza.
A key component of the Livetec Systems App is the historical UK avian influenza outbreak map, which allows users to easily look back into previous years’ avian influenza outbreaks and visually see spread patterns and so improve understanding of the disease spread.
The most common route for avian influenza into domestic flocks is from wild and water birds. Our wild birds tracking feature shows all confirmed and recorded wild bird deaths from previous seasons. By exploring the historic cases in your region, it is easy to see patterns of deaths – how they appear and how they spread – and typical timelines. This means that as current cases increase, farmers will be able to more accurately predict how virus pressure might increase in their region and allow them to take pre-emptive action, and protect their flock.
Download the Livetec Systems App now:
Download on Google Play here.
Download on Apple Store here.
Learn more on how Livetec can improve the wellbeing of your flock and your farm visit here.