Noteworthy: Loren Tauer on costs of decreasing antimicrobial use in dairy production

By: Katelyn Godoy
Photo of a cow laying in grass

A trio of Cornell researchers have worked together to analyze the issue of how regulations on antimicrobial use in animal agriculture might impact human and animal health, as well as its social and economic impact on farmers. The team includes:

  • Loren Tauer, professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management;
  • Guillaume Lhermie, postdoctoral associate, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine; and
  • Yrjö Gröhn, the James Law Professor of Epidemiology, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Their recently published study “The Farm Cost of Decreasing Antimicrobial Use in Dairy Production” inspected the effects of decreasing the use of antibiotics in dairy production by modeling a 1,000-cow dairy herd with an average level of disease prevalence for the nine most frequent bacterial dairy diseases found in Western countries. The team then calculated the current farm net costs of antimicrobial prohibition, as well as with other factors such as variable treatment prices and milk withdrawal periods.

The goal of the study, which is part of a larger project funded by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, is to create a sustainable model that protects farmers’ livelihoods and human and animal welfare without negatively impacting agricultural productivity, then educate policymakers and allow them to make informed decisions about antibiotic use and regulations.

Key findings of the paper

  • According to Lhermie. “…it wouldn’t be a high cost for farmers, but it is feasible the farmers would ask to be compensated” if antibiotic-free dairy production policies were put in place.
  • The cost of eliminating antibiotic use on dairy farms would average out to a $61 increase per cow annually when compared to current farm antibiotic use policies.
  • The farm level costs of decreasing or prohibiting antimicrobial use would be minor in most cases, as long as the new regulations did not jeopardize the sustainability of milk production.

To find out more about the paper and the potential effects of curtailing antimicrobial use in animal agriculture, read the full story from the Cornell Chronicle.

—Written by Julianna Teoh, a student intern for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business