Comparison of Three Preharvest Sampling Strategies to Monitor Pathogens in Cattle Lairage Areas


The objective of this study was to compare preharvest monitoring strategies by evaluating three different sampling methods in the lairage area to determine pathogen recovery for each sampling method and incoming pathogen prevalence from the cattle to inform in-plant decision making. Samples were gathered over a 5-month period, from February to June 2022, at a harvesting and processing facility located in Eastern Nebraska. Sampling methods included (i) fecal pats, (ii) boot swabs, and (iii) MicroTally swab. A total of 329 samples were collected over the study period (fecal pats: n = 105, boot swabs: n = 104, and MicroTally swabs: n = 120). Specific media combinations, an incubation temperature of 42°C, and incubation timepoints (18–24 h) were utilized for each matrix and the prevalence of Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and six non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) was evaluated using the BAX system Real-Time PCR assay. Overall, results from the study concluded that boot swabs were an effective sampling method for pathogen detection in the cattle lairage area. Boot swabs (97.1%) were statistically more likely to detect for Salmonella (p < 0.05) when compared to fecal pats (67.6%) and MicroTally swab (77.5%) methods. For E. coli O157:H7 and STEC – O26, O121, O45, and O103 prevalence, boot swabs were significantly better at detecting for these pathogens (p < 0.05) than MicroTally swabs (OR = 3.16 – 11.95) and a comparable sampling method to fecal pats (OR = 0.93 – 2.01, p > 0.05). Lastly, all three sampling methods detected a very low prevalence for E. coli O111 and O145; therefore, no further analysis was conducted. The boot swab sampling method was strongly favored because they require little training to implement, are inexpensive, and they do not require much sampling labor; therefore, would be a simple and effective sampling method to implement within the industry to evaluate pathogen prevalence preharvest.


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Boot Swabs, Cattle holding pens, Preharvest monitoring sentinel, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli


Flach, M.G., Dogan, O.B., Miller, M.F., Sanchez, M.X., & Brashears, M.M.. 2024. Comparison of Three Preharvest Sampling Strategies to Monitor Pathogens in Cattle Lairage Areas. Journal of Food Protection, 87(4).