Effect of on-farm use of antimicrobial drugs on resistance in fecal Escherichia coli of preweaned dairy calves

Richard Van Vleck Pereira, J. D. Siler, J. C. Ng, M. A. Davis, Y. T. Grohn, L. D. Warnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Respiratory disease and diarrhea are the 2 most common diseases that result in the use of antimicrobial drugs in preweaned calves. Because the use of drugs in food animals, including dairy calves, has the potential for generating cross-resistance to drugs used in human medicine, it is vital to propose farm practices that foster the judicious use of antimicrobials while assuring animal health and productivity. The objective of this study was to use dairy farm calf treatment records to identify antimicrobial drug treatments in calves and to evaluate their effects on the prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli from rectal swabs of preweaned dairy calves. Eight farms from central New York participated in the study, 3 farms using individual pen housing management and 5 farms using group pen housing management. Eligible study farms could not add antimicrobial drugs to the milk fed to preweaned calves and were required to have farm records documenting antimicrobial drug treatment of calves from birth to weaning. Three fecal E. coli isolates per calf were tested for susceptibility to 12 antimicrobial drugs using a Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion assay. A total of 473 calves were sampled, from which 1,423 commensal E. coli isolates were tested. Of the 9 antimicrobial drugs used on study farms, only enrofloxacin was significantly associated with reduced antimicrobial susceptibility of E. coli isolates, although treatment with ceftiofur was associated with reduced susceptibility to ceftriaxone. The median numbers of days from treatment with ceftiofur and enrofloxacin to rectal swab sampling of calves were 16 d (range: 1-39) and 12 d (range: 6-44), respectively. At the isolate level, treatment with enrofloxacin resulted in odds ratios of 2 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1-4] and 3 (95% CI: 2-6), respectively, for isolation of nonsusceptible E. coli to nalidixic acid and ciprofloxacin compared with calves not treated with enrofloxacin. Treatment with ceftiofur resulted in an odds ratio of 3 (95% CI: 0.9-12) for isolation of nonsusceptible E. coli to ceftriaxone compared with calves not treated with ceftiofur. Treatment with enrofloxacin resulted in selection of isolates that presented phenotypic resistance to both ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone. Treatment with ceftiofur resulted in a higher prevalence of isolates resistant to ≥3 antimicrobial drugs (97%) compared with no treatment with ceftiofur (73%). These findings reinforce the necessity for continued implementation of practices at the dairy farm that support the sustainable and judicious use of antimicrobial drugs in dairy calves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7644-7654
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Antimicrobial use
  • Enrofloxacin
  • Farm records

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Medicine(all)


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