The occurrence of Paenibacillus and Clostridium spores in silage is of great concern for dairy producers because their spores can contaminate milk and damage processed milk and semi-hard cheeses. Spoiled silage is considered to be the main contamination source of the total mixed ration (TMR), feces of dairy cows, and consequently bulk tank milk via the contamination of cow teats by dirt during milking. The presence of an anaerobic and facultative anaerobic sporeformer population in different matrices (soil, corn silage, other feeds, TMR, feces, and milk) and its transmission pathway has been studied on 49 dairy farms by coupling plate count data with 16S-DNA identification. The different matrices have shown a high variability in the anaerobic and facultative anaerobic spore count, with the highest values being found in the aerobically deteriorated areas of corn silages. Clostridium tyrobutyricum, Paenibacillus macerans, and Paenibacillus thermophilus were detected in all the matrices. The TMR spore count was influenced by the amount of spoiled corn silage in the TMR and by the care taken when cleaning the spoiled silage before feed-out. Most of the farms that prevent the presence of visible moldy silage in the silo and carefully clean to remove molded spots were able to maintain their TMR spore counts below 4.0 log spores/g. When a level of 4.5 log spores/g of TMR was exceeded, the feces presented a greater contamination than 3.0 log spores/g. Moreover, the higher the number of spores in the feces was, the higher the number of spores in the milk. Most of the farms that presented a feces contamination greater than 5.0 log spores/g had a higher milk spore contamination than 1,000 spores/L. Careful animal cleaning and good milking practices have been found to be essential to maintain low levels of contamination in bulk tank milk, but it has emerged that only by coupling these practices with a correct silage management and cleaning during TMR preparation can the contamination of milk by spores be kept at a low level. It has been found that aerobically deteriorated silage has a great capacity to contaminate TMR and consequently to increase the risk of milk spore contamination, even when routine milking practices are adopted correctly.
Keywords: Clostridium spp; Paenibacillus spp.; management practice; silage aerobic deterioration.
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