An object-oriented Bayesian network modeling the causes of leg disorders in finisher herds

Tina Birk Jensen, Anders Ringgaard Kristensen, Nils Toft, Niels Peter Baadsgaard, Søren Østergaard, Hans Houe

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The implementation of an effective control strategy against disease in a finisher herd requires knowledge regarding the disease level in the herd. A Bayesian network was constructed that can estimate risk indexes for three cause-categories of leg disorders in a finisher herd. The cause-categories of leg disorders were divided into infectious causes (arthritis caused by infectious pathogens), physical causes (e.g. fracture and claw lesions), and inherited causes (osteochondrosis). Information about the herd (e.g. the herd size, floor type and number of suppliers) and information about individual pigs (e.g. results from diagnostic tests) were used to estimate the most likely cause of leg disorders at herd level. As information to the model originated from two different levels, we used an object-oriented structure in order to ease the specification of the Bayesian network. Hence, a Herd class and a Pig class comprised the basic components of the object-oriented structure. The causal structure of the model was based on evidence from published literature. The conditional probabilities used in the model were elicited from experts within the field and from the published literature. To illustrate the behaviour of the model, we investigated the value of different levels of evidence in two fictitious herds with different herd characteristics related to the risk of leg disorders (e.g. purchase policy, production type and the stocking density in pens). The model enabled us to demonstrate the value of performing systematic collection of additional information (i.e. clinical, pathological and bacteriological examination) when identifying causes of leg disorders at herd level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian networks
  • Risk factors
  • Diagnostic test procedures
  • Leg disorders
  • Finisher herds


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