Understanding farmer and veterinarian’s behavior in relation to antimicrobial use and resistance in dairy cattle: a systematic review

S. Farrell, C. McKernan, T. Benson, C. Elliott, Moira Dean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


To tackle antimicrobial resistance, it is vital that farmers' and veterinarians' antimicrobial use behaviors and attitudes toward resistance are understood so that we can identify how beliefs and motives influence practices. Current literature details qualitative and quantitative research that explores the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of dairy farmers and veterinarians with respect to antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial practices, and the reported findings are varied and conflicting. Our objective was to conduct a systematic review to assess the evidence and knowledge gaps in the published literature. We identified articles via database searches of Embase, Medline, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science; we limited findings to published articles available in English with no publication year restrictions. Article screening was conducted at 3 levels: title, abstract, and full text. Of the 349 articles identified, 35 were retained for systematic review. Transparency of reporting was assessed for each study using the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) framework. Quality was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme qualitative checklist. Findings relating to dairy farmers' and veterinarians' knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions on antimicrobial resistance and practices were thematically analyzed. The comprehensiveness of reporting was variable: studies reported 5 to 26 of the 32 COREQ checklist items. Five key themes emerged from the data: knowledge and awareness of antimicrobial resistance; factors influencing farmer and veterinarian decision-making; perceived barriers and facilitators to reduced antimicrobial use; perceived responsibility for antimicrobial resistance; and the role of the farmer and veterinarian relationship in reducing antimicrobial use. Awareness of prudent antimicrobial use was not uniform between studies. Many factors influence farmers' and veterinarians' decisions to use antimicrobials, including animal welfare and available resources. The farmer–veterinarian relationship is a potential barrier or facilitator of reduced antimicrobial use, depending on the perceived relationship dynamic. Encouraging collaboration between farmers and veterinarians could lead to shared responsibility for reducing antimicrobial use. This review provided a coherent picture of what is currently known and identified gaps in the current knowledge to inform future behavioral intervention research. Increased knowledge, skill development, resources, engagement, and further research to address the gaps we identified are the main recommendations to effectively overcome barriers, elicit appropriate behavior change, and achieve reduced antimicrobial use in dairy cattle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4584-4603
Number of pages57
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2021


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • antimicrobial use
  • dairy farmers
  • systematic review
  • veterinary medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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