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Schewe study on dairy herd health and antibiotic use published in Journal of Rural Studies

Jan 31, 2018

Stewarding Dairy Herd Health and Antibiotic Use on U.S. Amish and Plain Mennonite Farms

Rebecca L. Schewe & Caroline Brock

Journal of Rural Studies, January 2018

Rebecca Schewe

Rebecca Schewe

This study uses a survey of dairy farmers in Michigan and Pennsylvania to examine self-reported antibiotic use and use of natural therapies to treat mastitis on dairy farms, comparing Amish and Mennonite (Plain) farmers to others. Plain farmers represent a large minority of U.S. farmers, and their proportion is projected to increase. Scholars suggest a unique environmental ethic amongst Plain farmers, and the authors extend this to examine antibiotic use.

Antibiotic use is a key component of sustainability on dairy farms. Regarding environmental sustainability, imprudent antibiotic use is associated with the risk of antibiotic resistance and drug residues. Regarding economic sustainability, antibiotic use is associated with increased costs and lost production. Results suggest that Plain farmers use antibiotics less frequently than others and rely more frequently on natural therapies. However, Mennonite farmers more closely resemble non-Plain peers. This suggests the need to recognize the distinctiveness of Plain farmers and that Plain farmers may offer lessons on sustainable practices that could be extended to other farmers.