Preventing E.Coli In Livestock Tanks

Cattle pick up E.coli from many areas of their environment and spread the bacteria when they defecate. It doesn’t make them sick, but if the meat from those cows isn’t cooked properly, E. coli can be transmitted to humans.

Researchers at Cornell University recently ran studies to see if they could pinpoint areas on the farm where E.coli infections might spread between cattle. They found that water in a trough, especially in the summer, could heat and promote pathogen replication. This means more cows acquire the bacteria when they drink.

Wendy Beauvais is a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She says they were expecting to find that by lowering the water level, there would be less pathogen shedding by the cattle, and less contamination of E.coli. But what they discovered was exactly the opposite.

"The troughs left at a higher level, those pens had a lower level of shedding in the cattle," says Beauvais. "So, it suggests that perhaps keeping the trough full might be a better strategy for reducing the presence of E.coli in the feedlots."

The researchers hypothesize that by keeping the tanks full, cattle are less likely to drink the debris collected at the bottom of water tanks where the bacteria could grow. Beauvais says good hygiene also helps.

"Try to keep the environment where the animals are clean, keep the water troughs clean as possible, and reduce the presence of rodents and things like that that could potentially spread it further," she says.

The study will trigger more research on environmental sources of E.coli spread in cattle.