Longitudinal assessment of dairy farm management practices associated with the presence of psychrotolerant Bacillales spores in bulk tank milk on 10 New York State dairy farms

Masiello, S.N.; Kent, D.; Martin, N.H.; Schukken, Y.H.; Wiedmann, M.; Boor, K.J.


The ability of certain spore-forming bacteria in the order Bacillales (e.g., Bacillus spp., Paenibacillus spp.) to survive pasteurization in spore form and grow at refrigeration temperatures results in product spoilage and limits the shelf life of high temperature, short time (HTST)-pasteurized fluid milk. To facilitate development of strategies to minimize contamination of raw milk with psychrotolerant Bacillales spores, we conducted a longitudinal study of 10 New York State dairy farms, which included yearlong monthly assessments of the frequency and levels of bulk tank raw milk psychrotolerant spore contamination, along with administration of questionnaires to identify farm management practices associated with psychrotolerant spore presence over time. Milk samples were first spore pasteurized (80°C for 12 min) and then analyzed for sporeformer counts on the initial day of spore pasteurization (SP), and after refrigerated storage (6°C) for 7, 14, and 21 d after SP. Overall, 41% of samples showed sporeformer counts of >20,000 cfu/mL at d 21, with Bacillus and Paenibacillus spp. being predominant causes of high sporeformer counts. Statistical analyses identified 3 management factors (more frequent cleaning of the bulk tank area, the use of a skid steer to scrape the housing area, and segregating problem cows during milking) that were all associated with lower probabilities of d-21 Bacillales spore detection in SP-treated bulk tank raw milk. Our data emphasize that appropriate on-farm measures to improve overall cleanliness and cow hygiene will reduce the probability of psychrotolerant Bacillales spore contamination of bulk tank raw milk, allowing for consistent production of raw milk with reduced psychrotolerant spore counts, which will facilitate production of HTST-pasteurized milk with extended refrigerated shelf life.