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Developing an efficient, validated, sustainable on-farm syndromic surveillance system for beef cattle and sheep


Endemic diseases cause significant losses to the livestock industry but it is difficult to estimate their economic costs. This project will investigate the feasibility of developing an electronic system for farmers to record diseases that occur on their farm as part of syndromic surveillance (SyS) for endemic diseases of beef cattle and sheep. SyS can be defined as the continuous monitoring of non-specific health indicators derived from pre-diagnostic records, such as clinical signs, laboratory test requests, abattoir condemnation rates and animal production data.

In England there are currently no surveillance initiatives that record endemic diseases in beef cattle and sheep although there are many uses for the outputs from such a system, including enabling farmers to benchmark their disease levels with national levels and to take action when they see disease levels increase on their own farm or locally. Results can be used to inform knowledge transfer activities or to target research and funding. SyS can be used to monitor important endemic diseases in livestock, e.g. by using clinical data recorded before laboratory confirmation is available SyS can fill important surveillance and knowledge gaps.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the project is to implement a SyS system that is useful for both farmers and the industry. The objectives are:

  • To run farmer focus groups to identify important goals for SyS
  • To interview stakeholders to identify valuable data sources (other than monitoring of clinical symptoms by farmers)
  • Pilot testing of electronic recording systems
  • The main study: electronic recording of clinical signs by farmers, analysis and feedback of the results and evaluation and analysis of other available datasets for SyS
  • Follow up focus interviews to evaluate the developed system

Farmers will be asked to record important clinical observations for a period of 18 months. Other data sources will be identified and also evaluated for implementation in the project. The developed system will provide farmers with feedback on their own on-farm disease levels and will enable them to compare their results with a regional or national benchmark.


This project is funded by The University of Warwick and AHDB Beef & Lamb.

Hanne Nijs

Hanne Nijs

Postgraduate Research Student

School of Life Sciences

University of Warwick



h dot nijs at warwick dot ac dot uk



Prof. Laura Green

Industry supervisor:

Dr. Liz Genever