The Problem Of Feeding Calves With Contaminated Milk


Calves may be fed with milk originating from the same farm which potentially contains residues of antibiotics.


Reasons to feed milk from cows treated with antimicrobials to calves include the perceived benefits of feeding whole milk for improving calf growth, immunity and the intention to reduce economic losses due to unsaleable milk.

The potential risk for development of AMR (antimicrobial resistance) due to such practices was unclear. Therefore, feeding of calves with milk containing residues of antibiotics on the farm of origin is not harmonised and subject to national rules.

EFSA Scientific Opinion

EU member statesFollowing a request from the European Commission (EC), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to deliver a Scientific Opinion on the Risk for the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) due to feeding of calves with milk containing residues of antibiotics.

To get a grip on the situation, EFSA sent out a questionnaire to all member states (MS) on the use of antibiotics in dairy for their particular country and to what extent this milk is fed to dairy calves.

This map highlights EU member states that confirmed that waste milk is fed to both male and female dairy calves (in % of farms).


Based on the data gathered from the EU members states, combined with the existing knowledge and literature, EFSA states that feeding milk and colostrum of cows treated with antibiotics can enhance the probability of calves excreting resistant bacteria through their faeces.


The feeding to calves of colostrum and milk containing residues of antimicrobials that could select for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria should be avoided, particularly those selecting for resistance to highest priority critically important antimicrobials.

Besides antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in calf faeces, attention should be paid to the presence of antimicrobials in calf faeces, which could also contribute to the development of AMR in the farm environment.

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