The aims of this PhD were to determine the accuracy of antibiotic usage data being recorded by dairy farmers on farm, identify factors influencing accurate recording, assess the drivers and barriers to record and share such data and to explore the economic cost of recording.

Cow looking at researcher using laptop


Antibiotic usage (ABU) has become recognised as the main driver for the selection and spread of antibiotic resistance (ABR) within the human and livestock sectors. It is critical that antibiotics are used in a rational and responsible way, and that usage is monitored to give a reliable picture of ABU. Therefore, accurate, centralised species-specific farm level data capture systems need to be developed, and dairy farming has been indicated as a priority sector. However, there is limited data on how dairy farmers currently record ABU, the accuracy of such records, and their decision-making behind capturing ABU. Addressing these areas is key to improving ABU data quality. The objectives of this study were:

  1. To survey the diversity of antibiotic recording systems used across the GB dairy industry and assess the accuracy of antibiotic data capture on farm using such systems through the development of a scoring tool
  2. To identify risk factors associated with poor recording accuracy of ABU on GB dairy farms, and assess whether such factors are associated with recording method
  3. To provide further knowledge and understanding of dairy farmers’ perceptions and attitudes towards data sharing through a centralised system
  4. To explore dairy farmers’ motivations for and barriers to the recording of antibiotic usage, and to understand their knowledge on ABU and the development of ABR
  5. To describe the cost of data collection and recording of ABU by GB dairy farmers, and explore whether cost has an impact on the accuracy of farm records
South West of England and Wales


This project comprises five research studies. A cross-sectional study was conducted during 2018 to investigate three areas of research outlined below. Farmers participating in this study were located in the South West of England and in Wales and were required to complete a questionnaire and provide retrospective copies of on-farm medicine records.

Studies one and two

The first study focused on the assessment of recording accuracy through detailed analysis of farm medicine records covering a 12 month period. Analysis examined:

  1. the completeness and correctness of data entries for each legally required variable
  2. the overall accuracy of records through the development of an accuracy score
  3. the comparative accuracy of paper and software recording methods The second study looked at management, enterprise and demographic risk factors associated with overall recording accuracy. Descriptive and advanced statistical methods, such as regression models and generalised estimating equations were used to identify research outcomes.

Study three

Due to the planned implementation of a centralised system to collate farm level data on ABU, the focus of this study was on the perceptions and attitudes of dairy farmers on data sharing. Qualitative content analysis on questionnaire responses was used for results interpretation.

Study four

The fourth study explored dairy farmers’ motivations for, barriers to and attitudes towards the recording of ABU. In addition, it aimed to understand their knowledge on ABU and ABR. Farmers were located in East Anglia, Scotland, the South East and the South West and participated in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used for interpretation of data.

Study five

The final, fifth study used data from the cross-sectional study, expert opinion and relevant literature sources to assess the:

  1. economic cost of data recording on farm
  2. cost difference between paper and software recording methods
  3. correlation of such costs with recording accuracy and ABU
Cows sitting down


Study one identified three key findings: farmers’ perception on recording accuracy does not match reality; software has greater accuracy in capturing ABU data compared to paper; and, certain errors are unique to software derived from the interaction of farmers with their platform. Dairy farmers should be made aware of where errors are occurring and encouraged to use software to record ABU. In addition, software functionality needs improving for optimum ABU accuracy. Restricted or no internet access impeded recording accuracy whereas use of Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) vaccination was associated with improved accuracy. There should be a continued focus on the rollout of internet in rural areas to facilitate use of software.

Dairy farmers felt they had ‘nothing to hide’ by sharing ABU data with a centralised system. They saw the potential benefits that could arise from this with regards to providing reassurance on appropriate ABU and facilitating early identification of herd health issues.

Concerns were raised about their lack of capacity and ability to carry out such data entry and the extent of third party access. These areas should be addressed by industry to support farmers to ensure successful implementation. Financial and animal welfare benefits motivated farmers to record ABU. In addition, the presence of a routine and prompts to record ABU were felt to improve accuracy. There were recognised concerns over ABR, although uncertainty around whether ABR was an issue on their farm. This suggests a need for active ABR surveillance on farms to reinforce antibiotic stewardship.


This research was funded by an internal PhD studentship award from the RVC, University of London. Additional funding to conduct farm visits and farmer interviews was awarded by Antibiotic Research UK (grant number ANTSRG 01/2018).


Title Publication Year
Antibiotic usage in the GB dairy industry: improving data capture and exploring drivers Oral and poster presentation at the International Society for Economics and Social Sciences of Animal Health (ISESSAH) 2020 Conference 2020
Data capture methods for Antibiotic usage in the UK Dairy Industry: How effective are they? Poster MRF National PhD Training Programme in AMR Conference 2019. Bristol University 2019
Antibiotic usage in the GB dairy industry: improving data capture and exploring drivers ANTRUK presentation (Presenter: Dr. Camilla Strang) 2019
Antibiotic usage on GB dairy farms: improving data capture and exploring drivers Presentation give to the EIS Research Group at Exeter University (Presenter: Dr. Camilla Strang) 2019

Top of page