Microbes in manure may help break down antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals excreted in manure by treated livestock, according to USDA research.

Research by Agricultural Research Service scientists in California shows that manure microbes play a role in determining how quickly the veterinary antibiotic, sulfadimethoxine, degrades. Some microbes in manure can digest and inactivate the excreted antibiotic.

Take-home message: Try to create a hospitable environment for the microbes. To do so, store manure from treated animals in a warm, moist place for as long as possible before spreading it onto fields. This gives the beneficial microbes an opportunity to act on any antibiotics present in the manure before it has a chance to leach into the soil and waterways.