Multiple model triangulation to identify factors associated with lameness in British sheep flocks

K. E. Lewis, M. J. Green, Jessica D. Witt, L. E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Identification of factors associated with an outcome can be challenging when the number of explanatory variables is large in relation to the number of observations. Multiple model triangulation, where results from several model types are combined, improves the likelihood of identifying true predictor variables. The aim of this study was to use triangulation to identify covariates likely to be truly associated with the prevalence of lameness in sheep flocks in Great Britain. Data were collected using a questionnaire sent to 3200 sheep farmers in Great Britain in 2018. The useable response rate was 14.1 %. The geometric mean prevalence of lameness was 1.4 % (95 % CI 1.2−1.7) for ewes, and 0.6 % (95 % CI 0.5−0.9) for lambs, however, approximately 60 % flocks had >2% prevalence of lameness in ewes. Four model types were investigated, two generalised linear models (negative binomial and quasi-Poisson) built using stepwise selection, and two elastic net models (Poisson and Gaussian distributions) refined with selection stability estimation. Triangulated covariates were those selected in three or all four models – 10 for ewes and 12 for lambs. Higher prevalence of lameness in ewes was associated with 5−100% feet bleeding during routine foot trimming compared with not foot trimming, footbathing the flock to treat severe footrot (SFR) and always using formalin in footbaths, both compared with not footbathing, using FootVax™ for <1 year compared with not using FootVax™, and never quarantining new or returning sheep to the farm for >3 weeks compared with always. Lower prevalence of lameness in ewes was associated with vaccinating with FootVax™ for >5 years compared with not vaccinating, peat soil compared with no peat soil, and having no lame ewes to treat. Higher prevalence of lameness in lambs was associated with 5−100% feet bleeding during routine foot trimming, always foot trimming ewes with SFR, not knowingly selecting replacement ewes from ewes that were never lame compared with always, replacement sheep purchased and homebred compared with only homebred, treating lambs >3 days after recognition of lameness compared with 0-3 days and footbathing the flock to treat interdigital dermatitis compared with not footbathing at all. Lower prevalence of lameness in lambs was associated with peat soil, flocks in Scotland versus England, an altitude of >230−500 m compared with ≤230 m, never using antibiotic injection to treat lambs with SFR compared with always, and having no lame lambs to treat. We conclude triangulation identified reliable management practices for farmers to implement to minimise lameness in sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105395
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Volume193
Early online date1 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Kate Lewis is funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership iCase studentship with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Jessica Witt is funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership studentship.

Keywords

  • Footrot
  • Lambs
  • Lameness
  • Modelling
  • Sheep
  • Statistical triangulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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