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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Algorithms to limit bovine respiratory diseases

Young cattle at the sorting centre in Ancenis, managed by Ter'Elevage, with a schematic representation of the movements of young cattle from three different breeder farmers to a sorting centre, then to two fatteners.
After identifying the composition of batches of young cattle and their travel distance as factors that increase the risk of developing respiratory diseases during fattening, the BIOEPAR unit developed decision support tools to optimise these factors and limit these risks.

Respiratory diseases particularly affect young cattle at the beginning of the fattening period, with health and economic consequences. In order to propose alternatives to antibiotics to fattening farmers, the BIOEPAR unit, which works at the interface between veterinary medicine and epidemiological modelling, has studied the factors linked to the logistical management of these animals. Most cases occur in the weeks following the transfer of animals from 'breeder' farmers to fattening centres. Intermediaries manage these transfers, collecting the cattle purchased from the breeders in sorting centres. They are then put together in batches and sold to 'fattener' farmers.

Using a dataset provided by the Ter'Elvage cooperative, the unit first identified three factors favouring bovine respiratory diseases: lack of vaccination by the breeder, the distance at which the animals are transferred and the mixing of animals from different breeders in the same batch. Weight uniformity in batches, a criterion often taken into account by feeders, was not included.

To improve the management of young cattle, the unit developed two algorithms. The first algorithm optimises the routes between the farrowers and the fatteners by choosing the sorting centre that minimises the distances travelled. A test on data provided by Ter'Elevage showed an 18% reduction in the longest journeys. The second algorithm proposes batch compositions that minimise the mixing of animals from different breeders. It was estimated from the same data that it could reduce the number of young cattle developing symptoms during fattening by 35%.

These publicly available decision support tools will allow the cattle industry to reduce the number of cases among the young cattle they batch. In the long term, they could reduce the need for fattening farmers to use antibiotics.

Professional Focus

The code of the algorithms developed, an explanatory poster as well as the associated scientific articles explaining their functioning and testing in more detail, are all freely available on the site regrouping all the software produced by the BIOEPAR unit : . These tools were tested on field data provided by the Ter'Elevage cooperative, but can be used on any data set, together or separately.


This study was conducted by the BIOEPAR unit, in collaboration with the MaIAGE unit and in partnership with Terrena Innovation.


This study was financed by the PSDR 4 Grand Ouest project "Sant'Innov", funded by INRAE and the regions of Brittany, Normandy, New Aquitaine and Pays de la Loire.

Related publications

  • Herve, L., Bareille, N., Cornette, B., Loiseau, P., & Assié, S. (2020). To what extent does the composition of batches formed at the sorting facility influence the subsequent growth performance of young beef bulls? A French observational study. Preventive veterinary medicine, 176, 104936.
  • Morel-Journel, T., Vergu, E., Mercier, J. B., Bareille, N., & Ezanno, P. (2021). Selecting sorting centres to avoid long distance transport of weaned beef calves. Scientific reports, 11(1), 1-10.
  • Morel-Journel, T., Assié, S., Vergu, E., Mercier, J. B., Bonnet-Beaugrand, F., & Ezanno, P. (2021). Minimizing the number of origins in batches of weaned calves to reduce their risks of developing bovine respiratory diseases. Veterinary research, 52(1), 1-12.


Associated INRAE departments : Santé animale (SA), Mathématiques et numérique (MathNum)

Other associated INRAE centres : Centre Pays de la Loire et centre Ile-de-France - Jouy-en-Josas - Antony