Understanding antibiotic usage on small-scale dairy farms in the Indian states of Assam and Haryana using a mixed-methods approach—Outcomes and challenges

The use and misuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals contributes to the global emergence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria, a threat to public health and infection control. Currently, India is the world’s leading milk producer but antibiotic usage within the dairy sector is poorly regulated. Little data exists reflecting how antibiotics are used on dairy farms, especially on small-scale dairy farms in India. To address this lack of data, a study was carried out on 491 small-scale dairy farms in two Indian states, Assam and Haryana, using a mixed method approach where farmers were interviewed, farms inspected for the presence of antibiotics and milk samples taken to determine antibiotic usage. Usage of antibiotics on farms appeared low only 10% (95% CI 8–13%) of farmers surveyed confirmed using antibiotics in their dairy herds during the last 12 months. Of the farms surveyed, only 8% (6–11%) had milk samples positive for antibiotic residues, namely from the novobiocin, macrolides, and sulphonamide classes of antibiotics. Of the farmers surveyed, only 2% (0.8–3%) had heard of the term “withdrawal period” and 53% (40–65%) failed to describe the term “antibiotic”. While this study clearly highlights a lack of understanding of antibiotics among small-scale dairy farmers, a potential factor in the emergence of AMR bacteria, it also shows that antibiotic usage on these farms is low and that the possible role these farmers play in AMR emergence may be overestimated.