Mesophilic and thermophilic spore-forming bacteria represent a challenge to the dairy industry, as these bacteria are capable of surviving adverse conditions associated with processing and sanitation and eventually spoil dairy products. The dairy farm environment, including soil, manure, silage, and bedding, has been implicated as a source for spores in raw milk. High levels of spores have previously been isolated from bedding, and different bedding materials have been associated with spore levels in bulk tank (BT) raw milk; however, the effect of different bedding types, bedding management practices, and bedding spore levels on the variance of spore levels in BT raw milk has not been investigated. To this end, farm and bedding management surveys were administered and unused bedding, used bedding, and BT raw milk samples were collected from dairy farms (1 or 2 times per farm) across the United States over 1 yr; the final data set included 182 dairy farms in 18 states. Bedding suspensions and BT raw milk were spore pasteurized (80°C for 12 min), and mesophilic and thermophilic spores were enumerated. Piecewise structural equation modeling analysis was used to determine direct and indirect pathways of association among farm and bedding practices, levels of spores in unused and used bedding, and levels of spores in BT raw milk. Separate models were constructed for mesophilic and thermophilic spore levels. The analyses showed that bedding material had a direct influence on levels of spores in unused and used bedding as well as an indirect association with spore levels in BT raw milk through used bedding spore levels. Specific bedding and farm management practices as well as cow hygiene in the housing area were associated with mesophilic and thermophilic spore levels in unused bedding, used bedding, and BT raw milk. Notably, levels of spores in used bedding were positively related to those in unused bedding, and used bedding spore levels were positively related to those in BT raw milk. The results of this study increase the understanding of the levels and ecology of mesophilic and thermophilic spores in raw milk, emphasize the possible role of bedding as a source of spores on-farm, and present opportunities for dairy producers to reduce spore levels in BT raw milk.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The funding for this project was provided by the National Dairy Council (Rosemont, IL) and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. (St. Joseph, MO). The authors thank the members of the Milk Quality Improvement Program and the Food Safety Laboratory (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) for their contributions to this work. A special thank you to the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit (Cornell University) for their advice with the statistical analyses performed. We thank the veterinary and university extension professionals for serving as farm samplers. Finally, we thank the dairy farms that voluntarily participated in this study.
© 2019 American Dairy Science Association
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- management practice
- raw milk