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Effect of preweaned dairy calf housing system on antimicrobial resistance in commensal Escherichia coli


Group housing of preweaned dairy calves is a growing practice in the United States. The objective of this practice is to increase the average daily gain of calves in a healthy and humane environment while reducing labor requirements. However, feeding protocols, commingling of calves, and occurrence of disease in different calf-housing systems may affect the prevalence of antimicrobial drug-resistant bacteria. This study evaluated the effect of a group pen-housing system and individual pen-housing system on antimicrobial resistance trends in fecal Escherichia coli of preweaned dairy calves and on the prevalence of environmental Salmonella. Twelve farms from central New York participated in the study: 6 farms using an individual pen-housing system (IP), and 6 farms using a group pen-housing system (GP). A maximum of 3 fecal E. coli isolates per calf was tested for susceptibility to 12 antimicrobial drugs using a Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion assay. Calves in GP had a significantly higher proportion of E. coli resistant to ciprofloxacin and nalidixic acid, whereas calves in IP had a significantly higher proportion of E. coli resistant to ampicillin, ceftiofur, gentamycin, streptomycin, and tetracycline. Calf-housing system had an effect on resistance to individual antimicrobial drugs in E. coli, but no clear-cut advantage to either system was noted with regard to overall resistance frequency. No outstanding difference in the richness and diversity of resistant phenotypes was observed between the 2 calf-housing systems.

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