Identifying associations between management practices and antimicrobial resistances of sentinel bacteria recovered from bulk tank milk on dairy farms

Daniel McLaughlin, Andrew Bradley, Tania Dottorini, Katharina Giebel, Katharine Leach, Robert Hyde, Martin Green

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing emphasis on the need to reduce antimicrobial use (AMU) on dairy farms to reduce the emergence of resistant bacteria which could compromise animal health and impact human medicine. In addition to AMU, the role of farm management is an area of growing interest and represents an alternative route for possible interventions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of farm management practices and AMU on resistances of sentinel bacteria in bulk milk. Dairy farms from two, geographically separate locations within the British Isles were recruited as part of two study groups. Farm management data from study group 1 (n = 125) and study group 2 (n = 16) were collected by means of a face-to-face questionnaire with farmers carried out during farm visits. For study group 2, additional data on AMU was collated from veterinary medicine sales records. Sentinel bacterial species (Enterococcus spp. and E. coli), which have been reported to be of value in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) studies, were isolated from bulk tank milk to monitor antimicrobial susceptibilities by means of minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). MIC data for both groups was used to generate an overall “score” for each farm. For both groups, this overall farm mean MIC was used as the outcome variable to evaluate the impact of farm management and AMU. This was achieved through use of elastic net modelling, a regularised regression method which also featured a bootstrapping procedure to produce robust models. Inference of models was based on covariate stabilities and bootstrapped P-values to identify farm management and AMU practices that have significant effects on MICs of sentinel bacteria. Practices which were found to be of importance with respect to Enterococcus spp. included management of slurry, external entry of livestock to the dairy herd, use of bedding materials and conditioners, cubicle cleaning routines and antibiotic practices, including use of β-lactams and fluoroquinolones. Practices deemed to be of importance for E. coli MICs included cubicle and bedding management practices, teat preparation routines at milking and the milking procedure itself. We conclude that a variety of routine farm management practices are associated with MICs of sentinel bacteria in bulk milk. Amendment of these practices offers additional possible routes of intervention, alongside alterations to AMU, to mitigate the emergence and dissemination of AMR on dairy farms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105666
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Bootstrap
  • Dairy
  • Farm management
  • Regularised regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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