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                    John Gay, DVM PhD DACVPM               AAHP                  FDIU             VCS

Herd Problem Investigation Resources for Veterinarians

Version 2.2  updated August 31, 2013


The purpose of this page is to provide veterinary students and practitioners a collection of herd problem and outbreak investigation resources.


On-Line Literature Resources:

General Philosophy and Approaches:


  • Multistate and National Foodborne Outbreak Investigations: A step-by-step guide
  • Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice: An introduction to applied epidemiology and biostatistics, 3rd ed, updated 2012 - self-study course SS1978 pdf  html

CIDER - Center for Infectious Diseases & Emergency Preparedness - UC Berkeley School of Public Health

FOCUS on Field Epidemiology (UNC Center for Public Health Preparedness)

  • 1(1): Overview of Outbreak Investigations - pdf
  • 1(3): Embarking on an Outbreak Investigation - pdf
  • 1(4): Case Finding and Line Listing: A Guide for Investigators - pdf
  • 3(5): Data Analysis Basics: Variables and Distribution - pdf
  • 3(6): Data Analysis: Simple Statistical Tests - pdf
  • 4(1): Advanced Data Analysis: Methods to Control Confounding (Matching and Logistic Regression - pdf

Guidelines for the Investigation of Gastrointestinal Illness (human - Victoria, AU)

  • see Chap 4: Gastroenteritis outbreak investigation in pdf

Having Students as Integral Rather than Peripheral Participants in Production Medicine Investigations (DJ Sprecher, Michigan State)

Outbreak Investigations—A Perspective, 1998   (AL Reingold, paper on human outbreak investigation in on-line CDC journal) - pdf  (Epidemiological Bulletin version, 2000 - pdf)

The Role of the Lab in the Investigation of Herd Health Problems (P Rogers, B Earley, Grange Research Centre)University of Wisconsin

WHO Food Safety publications

  • Foodborne Disease Outbreaks: Guidelines for Investigation and Control, 2008 - 162 pg pdf (outbreak investigation - Section 4, pdf pgs 23-55)

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Center Materials:

BAMN - Bovine Alliance on Management & Nutrition - dairy  (hosted by USDA NAHMS)

  • An introduction to infectious disease control on farms (biosecurity), 2001 - pdf
  • Biosecurity of dairy farm feedstuffs, 2001 - pdf
  • Biosecurity on dairies, 2001 - pdf

CFSPH - Center for Food Security & Public Health - Iowa State U

GPVEC - Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center

National Johne's Education Initiative

  • Handbook for Veterinarians and Beef Producers: A guide for Johne's disease risk assessments and management plans for beef herds - pdf
  • Handbook for Veterinarians and Dairy Producers: A guide for Johne's disease risk assessments and management plans for dairy herds - pdf
  • How to do risk assessments and management plans for Johne's Disease: A veterinary instructional handbook used for cattle herds in the Voluntary Bovine Johne's Control Program and to improve biosecurity and reduce pathogens - pdf

NYSCHAP - herd plans, risk assessment, investigation resources

Wisconsin Food Animal Production Medicine (Cook, McGuirk, Nordlund, Oetzel, et al.)

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My on-line materials related to herd problem investigation:

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Printed Literature Resources:


The following text is the single most useful guide to outbreak investigation. Block students should read the the two chapters in bold.

Lessard, PR, BD Perry (1988). Investigation of disease outbreaks and impaired productivity. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 1988 Mar; 4(1): 1-212.


Chapter Title:


Hancock DD, et al. Investigation planning and data gathering

1- 15

Lessard P The characterization of disease outbreaks 17- 32
Hancock DD, et al The collection and submission of samples for laboratory testing 33- 60
Martin SW The interpretation of laboratory results 61- 78
Hueston WD Evaluating risk factors in disease outbreaks 79- 95
Perry BD The design and use of supportive epidemiologic studies 97-108
Gardner I Techniques of reporting disease outbreak investigations 109-125
Swecker WS, et al The investigation of nutritional disorders 127-144
Blodgett DJ The investigation of outbreaks of toxicologic disease 145-158
Spangler L The investigation of outbreaks of infectious disease 159-168
Erb HN. The benefit-cost analysis of disease control programs 169-181
Dohoo IR, et al Disease outbreak investigation: Three case studies 183-208

Cannon, RM, RT Roe (1982). Livestock Disease Surveys: A Field Manual for Veterinarians. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. 35 pp.

One of the best sources for guidance on the questions of "how many samples are needed, given the cost vs. the value of the information from the testing" and "how best to select the animals for sampling from the group". The answers are not simple and depend on the question being asked and the size of the group.

Radostits, OM (ed., 2001). Herd Health: Food Animal Production Medicine, 3rd ed. Saunders, 884 pp. ISBN 0-7216-7694-4.

Example chapters:

  • Quantitative tools for production-oriented veterinarians
  • Records systems and herd monitoring in production-oriented health management programs in food-producing animals
  • Investigation of disease outbreaks and suboptimal productivity

Radostits, OM, et al. (2007). Veterinary Medicine: A textbook of the disease of cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and goats, 10th ed. 2065 pgs., Elsevier  Amazon

  • Examination of the Herd, pgs 31-37 in Chap. 1: Clinical examination and making a diagnosis

Brand, A, JPTM Noordhuzien, YH Schukken, eds. (1998). Herd Health and Production Management in Dairy Practice. 2nd reprint Wageningen Pers. ISBN 90-74134-34-3  543 pp. pprbk, bout $92US.

This entire text focuses on monitoring, diagnoses and intervention against herd problems in all aspects of dairying from youngstock through reproduction, mastitis and infectious disease.

Gregg, MB (ed., 2008). Field Epidemiology, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, New York. 451 pp., ISBN 0195313801. (written by authors associated with the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control as a guide for investigating disease outbreaks in humans).  Amazon

The most useful chapters (2nd ed.) for herd investigations are the following:

  • Conducting a Field Investigation (MB Gregg)
  • Describing the Findings (RF Fontaine, RA Goodman).
  • Designing Studies in the Field (RC Dicker)
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data (RC Dicker)

International Association for Food Protection - publications

  • Procedures to investigate waterborne illness, 2nd ed.
  • Procedures to investigate foodborne illness, 6th ed. - form pdf   keys pdf

Ruegg, PL (ed., 2006). Barnyard Epidemiology and Performance Assessment. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2006 Mar; 22(1): 1-270.- WSU access


Chapter Title:


Ruegg, PL Basic epidemiologic concepts related to assessment of animal health and performance - pdf

1- 19

Kelton, DF Epidemiology: A foundation for dairy production medicine 21- 33
Corbin MJ, Griffin D Assessing performance of feedlot operations using epidemiology - pdf 35-51
Rae DO Assessing performance of cow-calf operations using epidemiology - pdf 53-74
Waldner CL, Campbell JR Disease outbreak investigation in food animal practice - pdf 75-101
Sanderson MW Designing and running clinical trials on farms - pdf 103-123
Gay JM Determining cause and effect in herds - pdf 125-147
Slenniing BD Hood of the truck statistics for food animal practitioners - pdf 149-170
Reneau JK, Lukas J Using statistical process control methods to improve herd performance 171-193
McKenna SLB, Dohoo IR Using and interpreting diagnostic tests - pdf 195-205
Galligan D Economic assessment of animal health performance - pdf 207-227
Zadoks RN, Schukken YH Use of molecular epidemiology in veterinary practice 229-261

Thrusfield M (2007). Veterinary Epidemiology, 3rd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Appendix contains a long list of risk factor studies and their citations.

Wobeser GA (1994). Investigation and management of disease in wild animals. Plenum Press, 265 pp. Vet SF996.4.W63 1994

Section II: Diseases Investigation, pages 24-130, is an excellent discussion of investigation strategy in other than a farm animal context

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Selected Papers and Single Chapters: (listed alphabetically by author )(citations are a bit of a mess)

Please send me citations for good outbreak and problem investigation references that I've overlooked


  • Andrews AH (2004). Calf enteritis - Diarrhea on the pre-weaned calf - Strategic investigation of outbreaks. Cattle Practice 12:109-114.
  • Booker CW, Loneragan GH, Guichon et al. (2004). Practical application of epidemiology in veterinary herd health / production medicine. AABP Proceedings 37:?
  • Bradish SK (1997). A practical approach to the diagnosis of a dairy herd problem: A case report. Bovine Practitioner 31.2:111-114.
  • Brulisauer F, Thoma R, Cagienard A, et al. (2004). Anaplasmosis in a Swiss dairy farm: An epidemiological outbreak investigation. Schweizer Archiv fur Tierheilkunde 146(10):451-459.
  • Cabell, E (2007). Bovine abortion: Aetiology and investigation. In Practice 29:455-463.
  • Cadlow G, Lowman B, Riddell I (2005). Veterinary intervention n the reproductive management of beef cow herds. In Practice 27:406-411  pdf
  • Cook, NB (2007). A guide to investigating a herd lameness problem. Milkproduction.com html
  • Cook NB (2008). Makin' me dizzy - pen moves and facilty designs to maximize transition cow health and productivity - pdf
  • Dargatz, DA (ed., 2002). Biosecurity of cattle operations. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2002 Mar; 18(1):1-205.
  • Dargatz DA, MD Salman (1993) Application of epidemiological principles and methods to investigating and controlling equine infectious diseases Vet Clinics NA: Equine Practice. 9(2):247-255.
  • Dennis, SM (1980). Investigation perinatal calf mortality.  Proceedings of the 1980 Annual Meeting of the Society for Theriogenology, pgs. 150-168.
  • Duffield T (2007). Peripartum metabolic monitoring. The AABP Proceedings 40:213-218.
  • Dwyer DM, et al. (1994). Use of case-control studies in outbreak investigations. Epidemiol Rev. 16:109-123.
  • Fetrow J (1989). Dairy production medicine and herd monitoring. Bovine Proceedings 22:95-111.
  • Fetrow J, McClary D, Harman R, Butcher K, Weaver L, Studer E, Etherington W, Guterbock W, Klingborg D, Reneau J, Williamson N (1989). Calculating reproductive indices (Recommendations of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners). Bovine Proceedings 21:198-203.
  • Gay, JM (2009). Conducting a disease outbreak investigation. pp. 133-136 in: Haskell SRR (ed.). Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Ruminant, Supplementary Material CD, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Guard, C (2001). Investigating herds with lameness problems. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2001 Mar; 17(1):175-187.
  • Guard, C (?). Investigating herds with lameness problems. NYSCHAP - New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program - pdf
  • Hansen J, Perry B (1994). The epidemiology, diagnosis and control of helminth parasites of ruminates. ILRAD  TOC
  • Hardin, DK (1993). Fertility and infertility assessment by review of records. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 1993 July; 9(2):389-403.
  • Hogan J, L Smith (2000). Troubleshooting mastitis problems. Nat Mastitis Council Regional Mtg Proceedings 14-16. August 24, 2000, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Kahrs RF. (1978). Techniques for investigating outbreaks of livestock disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 173:101-103.
  • Kahrs RF. (1979). Teaching the techniques for investigating animal disease outbreaks. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 174:387-388.
  • Kamphues J, Wolf P, Mosseler A (2009). Impaired health and reduced performance in dairy cows due to dietary faults. Zuchtungskunde 81(6):451-460. (German)
  • Kinsel ML (1999). An Epidemiologic Approach to Investigating Abortion Problems in Dairy Herds. The Bovine Proceedings 32:152-160.
  • Kinsel, ML (2002). An epidemiologic approach to investigating abortion problems in dairy herds. Compendium: Food Animal 24(4):S34-S39
  • Mass J (2007). Diagnostic considerations for evaluating nutritional problems in cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2007 Nov; 23(3): 527-539.
  • Martin, SW, AH Meek, P Willeberg (1987). Veterinary Epidemiology: Principles and Methods  Chapter 12: Field Investigations, pages 283-329. (complete description of an approach to herd investigation procedures, whether a disease outbreak or a production problem).
  • McGuirk, SM (1997). Neonatal Calf Management: A guide to disease investigation. The Bovine Practitioner 31(1):83-86, 1997.
  • McGuirk, SM (2003). Solving Calf Morbidity and Mortality Problems. Preconvention Seminar 7: Diary Herd Problem Investigation Strategies, 36th Annual AABP Conference pdf
  • McGuirk, SM (2004). Trouble shooting calf health concerns. WBC Congress Prcdngs, pdf
  • McGuirk, SM, Semrad, SD (2005). Toxicologic emergencies in cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2005 Nov; 21(3):729-749.
  • McGuirk SM (2005). Herd-based testing for young stock. The AABP Proceedings 38:146-148.
  • Meadows, C.(2005). Reproductive record analysis. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2005 July; 21(2):305-323.
  • Mickelsen, WD (1990). Investigating the causes of low pregnancy rates in beef cattle herds. Vet Med 85:418-420, 422-427.
  • Mulligan, FJ (2006). A herd health approach to dairy cow nutrition and production diseases of the transition cow. Animal Reproduction Science 96(3-4):331-353.
  • Nelson, AJ (1996). On-farm nutrition diagnostics: Nutrition management involvement opportunities for dairy practitioners. The Bovine Proceedings 29:76-85.
  • Nordlund, K (2003). A flowchart for evaluating dairy cow freestalls. Preconvention Seminar 7: Diary Herd Problem Investigation Strategies, Proceedings of the 36th Annual AABP Conference pdf
  • Nordlund KV, Cook NB (2004). Using herd records to monitor transition cow survival, productivity and health. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2004 Nov; 20(3): 627-649.
  • Oetzel, GR (2003). Herd-based biological testing for metabolic disorder. Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, pdf
  • Oetzel, GR (2004). Monitoring and testing dairy herds for metabolic disease. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2004 Nov; 20(3): 651-674.
  • Oetzel, GR (2007). Limited intakes, low milk and lost income: Investigating the low-production dairy herd. Proc 40th Annual Conv AABP. 40:132-143.
  • Palmer SR (1995). Outbreak investigation: the need for 'quick and clean' epidemiology. Int J Epidemiol. 24 Suppl 1: S34-S38.
  • O'Grady L (2007). The high SCC herd - a guide to mastitis investigation. Irish Vet J 60(4):248-251  pdf
  • Osborne, HG (1960). The investigation of infertility syndromes in beef herds. Aust Vet J 36(4):164-171. pdf
  • Polson PD, Marsh WE, Dial GD (1998). Population-based problem solving in swine herds. Swine Hlth and Prod 6(6):267-272. pdf
  • Radostits, OM (2000). Investigation and Management of Epidemics of Disease in the Feedlot, Health Management Alberta Feedlot Management Guide, 2nd ed.
  • Reingold, AL (1998). Outbreak investigations - A perspective. Emerg Infect Dis 4(1):21-27,  html pdf
  • Ribble, CS, ED Janzen, J Campbell (1998). Disease outbreak investigation in the beef herd: Defining the problem. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the AABP 121-127.
  • Roder, J (2009). Toxicology: Herd Outbreaks. pp. 381-382 in:  Haskell SRR (ed.). Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Ruminant, Supplementary Material CD, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Ruegg, PL (1992). Use of basic epidemiologic principles in dairy production medicine. Part I. Assessing production. Comp Cont Educ for Pract Vet. 14:1535-1538, 1540, 1541, 1555.
  • Ruegg, PL (1993). Use of basic epidemiologic principles in dairy production medicine. Part II. Investigating herd problems. Comp Cont Educ for Pract Vet. 15:309-313.
  • Ruegg, PL (1996). Investigating herd problems and production on dairy farms. The Bovine Proceedings 29:96-101.
  • Ruegg, PL (2003). Investigation of mastitis problems on farms. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2003 Mar; 19(1): 47-73.
  • Sanders DE (2005). Troubleshooting poor reproductive performance in large herds. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2005 July; 21(2): 289-304.
  • Sanderson, M, Christmas R (1997). Investigation of depressed weaning weights in beef cow-calf herds. Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian 19(3):395- .
  • Shears P. (1996). Pseudo-outbreaks. Lancet. 347:138.
  • Steele-Bodger A. (1970). Investigating outbreaks of disease allegedly due to feedingstuffs. Vet Rec. 86:166.
  • Thatcher, CD, Swecker, WS (1989). Investigation of nutritional disorders. Proceedings of the 1989 Annual Meeting of the Society for Theriogenology, pgs. 71-83.
  • Toombs, RE, SE Wikse, RW Field, PS Holland (1992). Collecting a herd database to evaluate management and production of a beef cattle ranch. Veterinary Medicine ?:600-606. (includes Ranch Management Questionnaire)
  • Torvaldsen, S, Peter B McIntyre (2002). Observational methods in epidemiologic assessment of vaccine effectiveness. Comm Dis Intell 26(3):451-7.
  • Van Saun RJ (?). Dairy herd nutritional evaluations: Adding nutritional tools to your diagnostic toolbox, PennState Dairy Management, Health and Nutrition pdf
  • Van Saun RJ (?). Dairy herd investigations: 1. Finding problems with feed quality and feeding management. PennState Dairy Management, Health and Nutrition pdf
  • Van Saun RJ (2000). Dairy herd investigations: 2. Finding problems with toxic agents in feed. WSVMA 2000 Scientific Proceedings  pdf
  • Van Saun, RJ (2007). Adding nutritional tools to your diagnostic toolbox. North Am Vet Conf Procdngs-Large Animal 21 pdf
  • Waldner CL (2001). Investigation of reproductive problems in beef herds. Large Animal Veterinary Rounds, 1(5) pdf
  • Waldner CL (2006). Assessing disease and productivity - Critical tools for evaluating the herd.  Large Animal Veterinary Rounds, 6(6) pdf
  • Weaver, LD, Ruegg P (1989). Investigation of dairy herd infertility. Proceedings of the 1989 Annual Meeting of the Society for Theriogenology, pgs. 58-70.
  • Wikse, SE, Hancock, DD (1987). Risk factor evaluation: An integrated approach to solving herd disease or production problems. Proceedings of the 1987 Annual Meeting of the Society for Theriogenology, 148-153.
  • Wikse, SE (1988). Investigation of impaired fertility in beef cattle herds. Comp Cont Educ for Pract Vet: Food Animal 10:1225-1231, 1240. (Includes investigation protocol).
  • Wikse, SE (1989). Risk factor evaluation: An epidemiologic approach to investigation of impaired fertility in beef cattle herds. Proceedings of the 1989 Annual Meeting of the Society for Theriogenology, pgs. 41-57.
  • Wikse, SE, Toombs, RE, Field, RW, Holland, PS (1992). An epidemiologic approach to solving beef herd production and disease problems. Vet Med 87: 5, 495-506.
  • Wikse, SE, ML Kinsel, RW Field, PS Holland (1994). Investigating perinatal calf mortality in beef herds. Vet Clinics of NA: Food Anim Pract 10:147-166.
  • Zadoks RN (). Farm-level disease and production problem investigations - Use of molecular tools in outbreaks. The AABP Proceedings 40:144-151.
  • Bryan FL (2000). Conducting effective foodborne-illness investigations. J Environ Health 63(1):9-16.
  • Dyer DM, Strickler H, Goodman RA, et al. (1994). Use of case-control studies in outbreak investigations. Epidemiologic Reviews 16(1):109-123.
  • Goodman RA, Buehler JW, Koplan JP (1990). The epidemiologic field investigation: Science and judgment in public health practice.  Am J Epidemiol 132(1):9-16. pdf
  • Jones RC, Gerber SI, Diaz PS, et al. (2004). Intensive investigation of bacterial foodborne disease outbreaks: Proposed guidelines and tools for the collection of dose-response data by local health departments. J Food Protection 67(3):616-623.
  • Krause G (2009). Investigating outbreaks: medical imperative or academic indulgence? Wien Klin Wochenschr (2009) 121: 73–76
  • Palmer SR (1989). Epidemiology in search of infectious diseases - Methods in outbreak investigation. J Epidemiol Community Health 43(4):311-314. html
  • Palmer SR (1995). Outbreak investigation: The need for quick and clean epidemiology. Int J Epidemiol 24:S34-S38.
  • Potter MA, Sweeney P, Iuliano AD, Allswede MP (2007). Performance indicators for response to selected infectious disease outbreaks: A review of the published record. J Public Health Management Practice, 13(5):510–518.
  • Reingold AL (1998).Outbreak Investigations—A Perspective. Emerging Infectious Diseases 4(1):21-27. -  pdf  (Epidemiological Bulletin version - pdf)
  •  Rossi PG, Faustini A, Perucci CA et al. (2003). Validation of guidelines for investigating foodborne disease outbreaks: The experience of the Lazio region, Italy. J Food Protect 66(12):2343-2348.
  • Stone SP, Cooper BS, Kibbler CC, et al. (2007). The ORION statement: guidelines for transparent reporting of Outbreak Reports and Intervention studies Of Nosocomial infection. J Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 59(5):833-840.  pdf

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Other On-line Materials:

On-Line Software Resources:

Epi-Info Home Page (Free CDC personal computer software for data management and epidemiologic analysis; includes an on-line manual and tutorial; sophisticated program for outbreak investigation)

Epi Info Tutorials

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On-Line Outbreak Materials (Primarily human-oriented foodborne)

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Epidemiology and Statistics On-line Links Collection:

WWWeb Epidemiology & Evidence-based Medicine Sources for Veterinarians

My general collection of on-line epidemiology and statistics texts and courses, biostatistics websites, on-line or downloadable computer programs.

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Miscellaneous Collected Stuff:

Located in the midst of working on a specific problem.



  • Designing Feeding Programs for Natural and Organic Pork Production html
  • General Nutrition Principles for Swine (K State pdf)
  • Premix, Base Mix and Starter Diet Recommendations for Swine (K State MF2299 pdf)
  • Evaluating Feed Components and Finished Feeds (K State MF2037, 2001 pdf)

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