Our long-term goal is to develop solutions for mitigating antibiotic resistance (AR) in farm animals. Much of the research to date on selection/acquisition of antimicrobial resistance in food animal production has focused on feedlots. In our preliminary studies, we have found high levels of ARMs in cow/calf operations here in Florida, suggesting that the pathways involved in acquisition of ARMs are more complex – and begin earlier in the production cycle – than had been anticipated.
On the basis of our findings, our central hypothesis is that current management practices for grassfed cattle create conditions conducive to the acquisition and development of antibiotic resistance in the gastrointestinal tract. Development of rational mitigation strategies requires a comprehensive understanding of when, where, and how resistance was acquired, and how resistance genes and ARMs move among animals. However, little data is available on factors contributing to the acquisition of ARMs in agricultural systems. Therefore, understanding of AR occurrence from earlier in the food animal production cycle is essential to develop mitigation strategies. This integrated research and extension project focusing on identifying associated risk factors and origin for the presence of such resistance in farm animals to develop methods for reducing ARMs in farm animals. Conventional and new extension approaches will be used to better educate stakeholders and the public to reduce ARMs in cattle, enhancing the sustainability of US agriculture and global food safety and security.