Labor and Sustainability: The Role of Farm Labor Practices in Shaping Antibiotic Use

Krushna Ranaware, Rebecca Schewe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we examine the role that human labor practices and attitudes play in mastitis infections on US dairy farms. Mastitis infection is a key barrier to sustainability in dairy production, contributing to financial losses, animal welfare concerns, and perhaps most importantly imprudent antibiotic use. We combine data from five sources on herd characteristics, owner/manager attitudes and behaviors, and labor management to empirically analyze the connections between labor practices and mastitis infection. We examine 72 conventional dairy farms in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan using survey responses from both employees and owners/managers. We find that several labor practices and attitudes like communication, training, manager attitudes, and work intensity have important and meaningful associations with mastitis infection on dairy farms, in addition to conventional veterinary management practices. We also find that key labor practices are not associated with infection rates once we control for other factors. Our findings demonstrate the ways in which aspects of sustainability are intertwined on farms, particularly labor practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-656
Number of pages32
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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