Bacteria are usually viewed as “the enemy” and targeted with potent antibiotics to curb their ability to cause infection. But according to Agricultural Research Service scientists, microbes — including several types of bacteria — can be a farmer's ally when it comes to reducing the risk that antibiotic-containing manure may pose to the environment.

Livestock and poultry producers rely on antibiotics to treat a host of diseases and infections. In fact, more than 21 million pounds of antibiotics were administered to U.S. farm animals and pets in 2004. Such treatments help promote animals' health and well-being, in addition to ensuring a safe food supply for consumers.