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J Dairy Sci. 2011 Jun;94(6):2680-91. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3721.

Factors associated with coliform count in unpasteurized bulk milk.

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Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


The objective of this study was to identify factors associated with bulk milk coliform count (CC). Dairy farms (n=10) were visited once weekly on sequential weekdays over a period of 10 wk. During each visit, in-line drip samplers were used to collect 1 milk sample from 2 points of the milk line (between the receiver jar and milk filters, and after the plate cooler). During the same period that in-line milk samples were collected, university personnel observed milking performance and hygiene and collected liner (n=40) and teat skin swabs (n=40). Coliform counts were determined for milk samples and swabs using Petrifilm CC plates (3M, St. Paul, MN). A mixed model was used to assess the association between in-line milk CC (ILCC) and several potential predictor variables. The mean duration of each visit was 73 min and the time between start of milking and beginning of milk sampling was 154 min. The mean number of cows milked during each visit was 236. For all milk samples (n=181), geometric mean ILCC was 37 cfu/mL. In-line milk CC varied by farm, ranging from 5 to 1,198 cfu/mL. Rate of fall-offs, rate of cluster washes, outdoor and indoor temperature, indoor humidity, sampling duration, and parity group were unconditionally associated with ILCC but did not enter the final multivariate model. In-line milk CC was 4 times greater (115 cfu/mL) when milking machine wash failures occurred compared with ILCC after normal washes (26 cfu/mL). Pre-filter and post-cooler ILCC were not different when milk samples were collected at the beginning (<33% of herd milked) or at mid-milking (33 to 66% of the herd milked), whereas pre-filter ILCC was less than post-cooler for samples collected at the end of milking (>67% of the herd milked). Geometric mean ILCC (cfu/mL) increased 6.3% for every 10% increase in in-line milk SCC (cells/mL). Geometric mean ILCC increased 2.3% for every 10% increase in liner CC (cfu/mL). Results of this study provide novel information about farm factors associated with CC, as estimated in milk before storage in tankers or bulk tanks, and highlight the importance of proper and consistent milking machine washes in minimizing bulk milk coliform contamination. The nature of the associations between liner CC, rate of cluster washes, rate of milking units fall-offs, and ILCC indicates that managing and monitoring such events has the potential for improving bacteriological quality of farm bulk milk.

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