The cause for the high prevalence of cefotaximase-producing Escherichia coli reported in dairy calves is unknown but may be partly due to the selective pressure of antimicrobial residues in waste milk (milk unfit for human consumption) fed to the calves. Antimicrobial use and waste milk feeding practices were investigated in 557 dairy farms in 2010/2011 that responded to a randomised stratified postal survey. The mean number of cases of mastitis per herd in the previous year was 47, and 93 per cent of respondents used antibiotic intra-mammary tubes to treat mastitis. The most frequently used lactating cow antibiotic tubes contained dihydrostreptomycin, neomycin, novobiocin, and procaine penicillin (37 per cent), and cefquinome (29 per cent). Ninety-six per cent of respondents used antibiotic tubes at the cessation of lactation (‘drying off’). The most frequently used dry cow antibiotic tube (43 per cent) contained cefalonium. Frequently used injectable antibiotics included tylosin (27 per cent), dihydrostreptomycin and procaine penicillin (20 per cent) and ceftiofur (13 per cent). Eighty-three per cent of respondents (413) fed waste milk to calves. Of these 413, 87 per cent fed waste milk from cows with mastitis, and only one-third discarded the first milk after antibiotic treatment. This survey has shown that on more than 90 per cent of the farms that feed waste milk to calves, waste milk can contain milk from cows undergoing antibiotic treatment. On some farms, this includes treatment with third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins. Further work is underway to investigate the presence of these antimicrobials in waste milk.
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