Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as it Relates to Dairy Production

The US Food and Drug Administration has been refining regulation of antibiotic use in livestock to promote judicious use and to prevent antibiotic resistance and better protect animal and human health. The Administration’s goal is to “phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for production purposes (e.g., to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency), and to bring the therapeutic uses of such drugs (to treat, control, or prevent specific diseases) under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.” The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) changes, effective January 2017, are part of this effort.

In 2016, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY began a three-year USDA-NIFA funded project (2016-68003-24601) to investigate the efficacy of modern dairy manure systems to mitigate antimicrobial resistance (AMR).


This project, a collaboration with SUNY Buffalo, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, and several collaborating dairy farms, is one of the first thorough investigations of AMR in dairy manure treatment system in the Northeastern US.

The goal of Curt Gooch and his Dairy Environmental Systems Group is to provide dairy stakeholders with the most accurate information and to equip them with the knowledge to continue to make significant gains in the environmental, economic and social sustainability of their production systems.

Based on a 2007 study representing 79.5% of US dairy operations and 82.5% of US dairy cows, antibiotics were used therapeutically by ~85% of US dairy operations to treat cow mastitis and by over 50% to treat respiratory, reproductive and lameness issues. More than 60% of dairies used antibiotics to treat respiratory problems in weaned calves and heifers, and to treat respiratory problems and diarrhea in unweaned calves. To prevent disease and promote healthy growth, 90.1% of US dairy operations practiced dry cow therapy, 18.2% fed antibiotics in heifer rations, and 57.5% fed medicated milk replacer to unweaned calves.


While there may be the potential to improve manure management systems (i.e. composting, storage, or anaerobic digestion) to adequately mitigate antibiotic residues before land  application, currently the best way to reduce the release of antibiotics from a farm is to optimize and reduce the use of antibiotics.

Resources developed for farmers by PRO-DAIRY Dairy Environmental Systems Group include: Frequently asked questions on AMR and a Fact Sheet - Overview of AMR as it relates to dairy production.