Interpretable machine learning applied to on-farm biosecurity and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus

Sykes, Abagael
Silva, Gustavo
Linhares, Daniel
Holtkamp, Derald
Mauch, Broc
Osemeke, Onyekachukwu
Linhares, Daniel
Machado, Gustavo
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Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Effective biosecurity practices in swine production are key in preventing the introduction and dissemination of infectious pathogens. Ideally, biosecurity practices should be chosen by their impact on bio-containment and bio-exclusion, however quantitative supporting evidence is often unavailable. Therefore, the development of methodologies capable of quantifying and ranking biosecurity practices according to their efficacy in reducing risk have the potential to facilitate better informed choices. Using survey data on biosecurity practices, farm demographics, and previous outbreaks from 139 herds, a set of machine learning algorithms were trained to classify farms by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus status, depending on their biosecurity practices, to produce a predicted outbreak risk. A novel interpretable machine learning toolkit, MrIML-biosecurity, was developed to benchmark farms and production systems by predicted risk, and quantify the impact of biosecurity practices on disease risk at individual farms. Quantifying the variable impact on predicted risk 50% of 42 variables were associated with fomite spread while 31% were associated with local transmission. Results from machine learning interpretations identified similar results, finding substantial contribution to predicted outbreak risk from biosecurity practices relating to: the turnover and number of employees; the surrounding density of swine premises and pigs; the sharing of trailers; distance from the public road; and production type. In addition, the development of individualized biosecurity assessments provides the opportunity to guide biosecurity implementation on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the flexibility of the MrIML-biosecurity toolkit gives it potential to be applied to wider areas of biosecurity benchmarking, to address weaknesses in other livestock systems and industry relevant diseases.


This is a pre-print of the article Sykes, Abagael L., Gustavo S. Silva, Derald J. Holtkamp, Broc W. Mauch, Onyekachukwu Osemeke, Daniel CL Linhares, and Gustavo Machado. "Interpretable machine learning applied to on-farm biosecurity and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus." arXiv preprint arXiv:2106.06506 (2021). Posted with permission.