Submitted by dasko2 on Wed, 03/11/2020 - 09:23


Infectious Disease in Livestock Systems

VCM 560 | 3 credit hours

Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. James Lowe

Course Description

This is an 8-week graduate level course that covers the components and determinants of a healthy livestock system. The course will allow students to understand the interaction between animals (hosts), microorganisms (infectious disease) and the environment. This course emphasizes how to optimize interventions in livestock production systems to minimize the economic impact of infectious disease. The instructors assume that enrolled students have a foundational knowledge of pathogens and livestock system design and operations.

This course will take 7-9 hours per week (estimate includes lectures, readings, assignments, etc).

Mode of Teaching

This course is fully online using Compass 2g ( supported by Blackboard. The content will be presented as text, videos, and other media. The course covers the same amount of material that would be expected if the class were a traditional campus-based course. Due to the nature of online learning, students must be diligent about their learning, engaging often and actively.

Course Goals

Students will possess the knowledge required to improve the health of livestock systems and apply economically effective interventions to control infectious disease.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Recognize factors that influence infectious disease transmission within and between livestock production systems.
  2. Identify strategies to minimize the risk of pathogen transmission.
  3. Create a comprehensive health improvement program for a given livestock production system.

Module Topics

  • Module 1
    • The SIR (susceptible, infected, and resistant) framework
    • Using the SIR framework to understand infectious disease
    • Factors that determine if animals are susceptible, infected, or resistant within herds
    • Population resistance and susceptibility
    • Factors that influence the contact between infected and susceptible animals within herds
    • Implications of thermoneutrality on pathogen transmission
    • Measuring pathogen and disease transmission within herds
    • The epidemic curve
  • Module 2
    • Defining a systems-based approach to controlling disease spread
    • Routes of transmission between individuals within a herd and between herds
    • Routes and factors that influence indirect transmission of pathogens within and between herds
    • Designing rational biosecurity systems to control pathogen movement
    • Decontamination of fomites to control pathogen transmission
    • Impact of animal movement and mixing on pathogen transmission
  • Module 3
    • Root cause analysis
    • How to determine the root cause
    • Applying the theory of constraints to livestock production systems
    • Assessing the cost of disease in growing animals
    • Assessing the cost of disease in breeding herds
    • Assessment tools to determine the probability of disease introduction
    • Why a systems-based approach is important
  • Module 4
    • Defining the status of the herd in a systematic way
    • Applying an enhanced case definition to understanding herd status
    • Diagnostic tests to assess herd status
    • Strategies and interpretation of diagnostic tests
    • The philosophy of sampling approaches
    • Understanding prevalence and confidence to determine sample size
    • Practical considerations when using sampling to detect pathogens
    • Using sampling to detect homogeneous and heterogeneous pathogen distributions
  • Module 5
    • Assessing constraints
    • Assessing human constraints in production systems
    • Assessing physical constraints of a production location
    • Assessing physical constraints of production systems
    • System operational constraints on animal health

  • Module 6
    • Designing systems to limit pathogen movement within farms
    • Designing systems to limit pathogen movement between farms
    • Designing immunoprophylaxis schemes
    • Management of colostrum
    • Application of metaphylaxis
  • Module 7
    • The importance of monitoring disease management programs
    • In process monitoring of health programs
    • Outcome monitoring of health improvement programs
    • Making decisions in the face of ambiguity

Course Overview

  • Course Structure Overview

All course materials will be accessed via the internet. Students may access the course at Course modules will be a combination of video lectures, quizzes, discussions, assignments with a final project. Students will work as an individual or in assigned groups to explore the concepts in this course. All students will be expected to commit themselves to the following:

  • Watch all the lecture videos.
  • Actively participate in online discussions. Be prepared to ask questions, give examples and express your thoughts on class topics.
  • Complete assigned learning activities.

Course Requirements

  • Required Textbook

There is no required textbook.

  • Technical Requirements

Knowledge of and operation of a computer is the students’ personal responsibility.

You will need:

  • A reliable device.
  • High-speed internet connection: e.g. DSL or Cable.
  • Supported web browser: e.g. a recent version of Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.
  • Access Microsoft Office 365 (Net ID and password needed) & have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.
  • Minimum technical skills: At a minimum, students must possess the ability to navigate Blackboard.  This includes accessing course content, posting to a discussion board, and completing online assignments, quizzes, self-assessments, and exams.
  • Online meetings via ZOOM: We use a software solution called ZOOM for online meetings. Student may join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android or call by telephone. The meeting link or telephone number will be provided after meeting is scheduled to join a meeting. A webcam is preferred for easier communication.


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