Antibiotics in the Dairy Farm Environment: Understanding Antibiotic Transport to Improve Farm Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $11,782.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Todd Walter
Cornell University


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: Contaminant Transport
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance

    Proposal abstract:

    Improving sustainability in farming has dominated engineering, outreach, and farmer conversations for many years. This project focuses on the sustainability associated with animal husbandry linkages to soil and water quality. Antibiotics used to treat animals may be impacting soil and water quality, leading to human and other organismal health concerns. Understanding the transport of these compounds on farms will help illuminate risk associated with soil and water contamination, and help farms prevent such transport. This work seeks to expand our understanding of the transport of these compounds through lab and field scale experiments paired with farmer interviews to determine and test distribution coefficients between antibiotics and manure and soils that they encounter upon excretion. Batch experiments, column experiments, and a practice-scale experiment will be conducted to determine transport coefficients and test models of transport prediction.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This work aims to characterize the adsorption and transport processes of antibiotics, and help predict transport of these compounds from agricultural sites to the surrounding geological and ecological systems. This work is to be done in parallel with an interview-based study on farmer perceptions of antibiotic impact on farms. The two studies together will create a more holistic understanding of antibiotic impacts on dairy farms. The interview study has been fully funded and is only discussed here where overlap applies.

    Objective 1: Determine adsorption coefficients for two antibiotics (erythromycin and ampicillin) to manure and soil.

    Objective 2: Model expected transport of antibiotics given experimental results in objective 1, and determine if the model holds for a laboratory column experiment. Adjust model appropriately if other factors (i.e. biological degradation) are shown to be important in controlling transport.

    Objective 3: Test the model outcome from objective 2 at the farm scale with environmentally relevant antibiotic concentrations.

    Objective 4: Lower communication barriers between farmers, scientists, policy makers and the public.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.