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Survival of Escherichia coli, Enterococci, and Campylobacter spp. in sheep feces on pastures

Abstract

The survival of enteric bacteria in 10 freshly collected sheep fecal samples on pastures was measured in each of four seasons. Ten freshly collected feces were placed on pasture, and concentrations of Escherichia coli, enterococci, and Campylobacter spp. were monitored until exhaustion of the fecal samples. In all four seasons, there was an increase in enterococcal concentrations by up to 3 orders of magnitude, with peak concentrations recorded between 11 and 28 days after deposition. E. coli concentrations increased in three out of four seasons by up to 1.5 orders of magnitude, with peak concentrations recorded between 8 and 14 days after deposition. The apparent growth of E. coli and enterococci was strongly influenced by the initial water content of the feces and the moisture gained during periods of rehydration following rainfalls. Conversely, the results suggested that dehydration promoted inactivation. Campylobacter spp. did not grow and were rapidly inactivated at a rate that tended to be faster at higher temperatures. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of a selection of Campylobacter spp. suggested that these survival data are applicable to a range of Campylobacter spp., including the most frequently isolated PFGE genotype from sheep in New Zealand, and to genotypes previously observed to cause disease in humans. The results of this study are currently being incorporated into a fecal microbe reservoir model that is designed to assist water managers' abilities to estimate microbial loads on pastures grazed by sheep, including the influence of factors such as rainfall and temperature.

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