Bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobials are widespread. This article reviews the distribution of resistant bacteria in farm environments. Humans, animals, and environmental sites are all reservoirs of bacterial communities that contain some bacteria that are susceptible to antimicrobials and others that are resistant. Farm ecosystems provide an environment in which resistant bacteria and genes can emerge, amplify and spread. Dissemination occurs via the food chain and via several other pathways. Ecological, epidemiological, molecular and mathematical approaches are being used to study the origin and expansion of the resistance problem and its relationship to antibiotic usage. The prudent and responsible use of antibiotics is an essential part of an ethical approach to improving animal health and food safety. The responsible use of antibiotics during research is vital, but to fully contribute to the containment of antimicrobial resistance ‘prudent use’ must also be part of good management practices at all levels of farm life.