Information on lairages (regarding design, construction materials, and use of bedding and cleaning regimes) was collected for 21 commercial cattle and/or sheep abattoirs in southwest England. Overall, roughened or grooved concrete was the most common lairage flooring material. Straw bedding was used in the majority of lairages and was changed between animal batches, daily, weekly, and monthly in roughly 5, 60, 15, and 10%, respectively, of the surveyed lairages. Lairages were commonly washed with cold water with no detergents and/or disinfectants, and only about half the lairages were washed daily. Also, a three-pathogen cocktail inoculum comprising Escherichia coli O157 (NCTC 12900), Salmonella Kedougou (VLA S488/01), and Campylobacter jejuni (VLA C4) (at 8, 8, and 7 log CFU/ml or 8, 8, and 7 log CFU/g, respectively) was suspended in either broth (for nonfecal contamination) or bovine feces (for fecal contamination). Samples of the four most common substrates present in lairages (concrete, straw, metal, and hide) were contaminated in vitro with either fecal or nonfecal inocula and subsequently held in the laboratory at 10 or 25°C for 1 week. Bacterial counts for these samples were monitored daily and used to assess the number of days required for a 90% reduction of each pathogen population. In most cases, pathogens survived for >1 week, with survival rates being higher for straw or hide than for concrete or metal and higher for fecal contamination than for nonfecal contamination. Overall, if survival rates for the three pathogens under practical lairage conditions were similar to the in vitro survival rates found in this study, contamination of lairages with pathogens could be carried over from one batch of animals to another and/or from one day to the next.

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