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J Dairy Sci. 1998 Apr;81(4):1102-8.

The occurrence and replication of Escherichia coli in cattle feeds.

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Field Disease Investigation Unit, Washington State University, Pullman 99164.


Sixty-three of 209 (30.1%) samples of cattle feed that were collected from multiple commercial sources and from farms were found to contain Escherichia coli. However, none of the feed samples examined were culture-positive for E. coli O157. Replication of fecal E. coli, including E. coli O157, was demonstrated in a variety of feeds at temperatures that were similar to those found on farms in summer months. Fresh mixed rations containing corn silage were sampled from 16 dairies. Rations from 12 of these dairies were found to contain E. coli, and the rations from 5 dairies had concentrations of E. coli that were greater than 1000 cfu/g. The ability of experimental mixed rations to support the replication of E. coli was correlated with the concentration of organic acids in the corn silage that was used in the ration. Widespread contamination of cattle feeds with E. coli and the ability of E. coli to replicate in feeds suggest that feeds are a potentially important factor in the ecology of organisms that can be transmitted from feces to mouth, such as E. coli O157.

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