In this study, the prevalence and types of transferable antibiotic resistance plasmids in piggery manure were investigated. Samples from manure storage tanks of 15 farms in Germany were analysed, representing diverse sizes of herds, meat or piglet production. Antibiotic resistance plasmids from manure bacteria were captured in gfp-tagged rifampicin-resistant Escherichia coli and characterized. The occurrence of plasmid types was also detected in total community DNA by PCR and hybridization. A total of 228 transconjugants were captured from 15 manures using selective media supplemented with amoxicillin, sulfadiazine or tetracycline. The restriction patterns of 81 plasmids representing different antibiotic resistance patterns or different samples clustered into seven groups. Replicon probing revealed that 28 of the plasmids belonged to IncN, one to IncW, 13 to IncP-1 and 19 to the recently discovered pHHV216-like plasmids. The amoxicillin resistance gene bla-TEM was detected on 44 plasmids, and sulphonamide resistance genes sul1, sul2 and/or sul3 on 68 plasmids. Hybridization of replicon-specific sequences amplified from community DNA revealed that IncP-1 and pHHV216-like plasmids were detected in all manures, while IncN and IncW ones were less frequent. This study showed that 'field-scale' piggery manure is a reservoir of broad-host range plasmids conferring multiple antibiotic resistance genes.