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J Dairy Sci. 2014 Nov;97(11):6777-84. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8342. Epub 2014 Sep 6.

Prevalence of thermoduric bacteria and spores on 10 Midwest dairy farms.

Author information

Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, Dairy Science Department, South Dakota State University, Brookings 57007.
Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, Dairy Science Department, South Dakota State University, Brookings 57007. Electronic address:
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, South Dakota State University, Brookings 57007.

Erratum in

  • J Dairy Sci. 2014 Dec;97(12):8008. Djira, Gemechis D [added].


Thermoduric bacteria (TDB), including sporeformers and their spores, can be present in milk and dairy products even after pasteurization. They have the potential to adversely affect the quality and shelf life of products. The objectives of this study were to identify the origin and common species of heat-resistant bacteria occurring during summer and winter on Midwest dairy farms. Bulk tank milk samples were taken from 10 dairy farms located along the South Dakota section of Interstate 29, with herd sizes ranging from 650 to 3,500 lactating dairy cows. Milk samples were profiled for the prevalence of TDB and spore counts (SC). Corn silage samples and swabs of the milking clusters were also taken at the dairies to further profile the potential sources of TDB and SC. The samples were taken 3 times during 2 seasons [winter (January-March) and summer (June-August)] to track seasonal changes in the farm bacterial flora. During winter, the average TDB counts in bulk tank milk were 2.61 log compared with 2.76 log TDB counts in the summer. The SC was 1.08 log in the winter, which was half the 2.06 log SC present in the summer season. Corn silage sampled in winter contained a 7.57 log TDB count compared with an increased 10.77 log TDB count during summer sampling. Concentrations of SC in corn silage reached an average of 6.3 log in winter compared with 11.81 log for summer. The seasonal effect was evident with an increase in summer counts across the board for TDB and SC, both in the feed and bulk tank milk samples. Bacillus licheniformis was the predominant species identified in 62.4% of winter (85 total) and 49.4% of summer (83 total) samples. Bacillus subtilis made up 9.4% of the remaining winter isolates, followed by Bacillus sonorensis at 8.2%. Conversely, B. sonorensis made up 12% of the summer isolates followed by Bacillus pumilus at 10.8%. Bacillus licheniformis is a ubiquitous microbe and was isolated from both TDB and sporeformer categories in all 3 sample types. There were larger increases in SC than TDB, indicating that summer temperatures and conditions may favor proliferation of sporeforming bacteria over that of TDB. In conclusion, samples from bulk tank milk, milking cluster swabs, and corn silage samples at each of the 10 sites indicated that B. licheniformis was the major contaminant species, regardless of season. In this experiment, corn silage was the major environmental source of both TDB and SC with higher concentrations in summer when compared with winter.


Bacillus; corn silage; spore; thermoduric bacteria

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