Antimicrobials are widely used in veterinary practices, but there has been no investigation of antimicrobial classes used or the appropriateness of their use in bovine practice. This study investigated antimicrobial use for surgical prophylaxis in bovine practice in Australia. A cross-sectional study of veterinarian antimicrobial usage patterns was conducted using an online questionnaire. Information solicited included respondent’s details, the frequency with which antimicrobials were used for specific surgical conditions (including the dose, timing and duration of therapy) and details of practice antimicrobial use policies and sources of information about antimicrobials. In total, 212 members of the Australian veterinary profession working in bovine practice completed the survey. Antimicrobials were always or frequently used by more than 75 per cent of respondents in all scenarios. Generally, antimicrobial drug choice was appropriate for the reported surgical conditions. Procaine penicillin and oxytetracycline accounted for 93 per cent of use. However, there was a wide range of doses used, with underdosing and inappropriate timing of administration being common reasons for inappropriate prophylactic treatment. There was very low use of critically important antimicrobials (3.3 per cent of antimicrobials reported). Antimicrobial use guidelines need to be developed and promoted to improve the responsible use of antimicrobials in bovine practice.