Bayesian estimation of true between-herd and within-herd prevalence of Salmonella in Danish veal calves

T. D. Nielsen, L. R. Nielsen, Nils Toft

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Specialised veal producers that purchase and raise calves from several dairy herds are potentially at high risk of delivering Salmonella-infected animals to slaughter. However, the true prevalence of Salmonella infected veal producing herds and the prevalence of infected calves delivered to slaughter from infected herds are unknown in Denmark. Due to uncertainties about test sensitivity and specificity, these prevalences are not straightforward to assess. The objective of this study was to estimate the within-herd- and between-herd prevalence of Salmonella in veal calves delivered for slaughter to abattoirs in Denmark. Furthermore, it was investigated to which extent the estimates differed between a setup using both serological tests and faecal culture, compared to just serological tests, and whether the applied sampling scheme in the national surveillance programme in Denmark was sufficient to establish high posterior estimates of freedom from infection in individual herds. We used Bayesian analysis to avoid bias as a result of fixed test validity estimates. Serological test results from 753 animals and faecal culture from 1233 animals from 68 randomly selected Danish veal producing herds that delivered more than 100 calves to slaughter per year were used to estimate the prevalences and estimates of freedom from Salmonella. Serological test results of 7726 animals from 185 herds were used to compare the difference in prevalence estimates between serology alone vs. faecal culture combined with serology. We estimated that 34–57% of specialised veal producing herds were infected with Salmonella. Within the infected herds, 21–49% of the animals were infected. Few herds obtained high posterior estimates for the probability of freedom from infection given the collected data, with only six of 68 herds obtaining posterior probability of being infected less than 10%. Furthermore, this study indicated that serology is sufficiently sensitive and specific to be used for estimating the prevalence of Salmonella-infected specialised veal producing herds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Salmonella
  • Veal calf
  • Prevalence
  • Abattoir
  • Bacteriology
  • Serology


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