Factors affecting the microbiological quality and contamination of farm bulk milk by Staphylococcus aureus in dairy farms in Asella, Ethiopia
The determination of the microbiological quality and safety of raw milk and the associated influencing factors at the farm level is very critical given that the quality or safety of subsequent products that are further produced depends on this. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the microbiological quality and safety of bulk milk and identify associated risk factors, and assess the presence/absence of S. aureus in bulk milk with potential contaminating sources in dairy farms in Asella, Ethiopia.
The geometric means of bacterial counts in farm bulk milk were 5.25 log cfu/ml, 3.1 log cfu/ml and 2.97 log cfu/ml for total bacterial count (TBC), coliform count (CC) and coagulase-positive staphylococci count (CPS), respectively. Of the 50 dairy farms, 66, 88, and 32% had TBC, CC and CPS counts, respectively, that exceeded the standard international limits for raw cow’s milk intended for direct human consumption. TBC tended to increase as CC increased in bulk milk (r = 0.5). In the final regression model, increased TBC, CC and the contamination of farm bulk milk by S. aureus were significantly associated with dirty barns, dirty cows and soiled udder and teats. TBC was higher during the rainy season than during the dry season. The reported practice of washing teats with warm water significantly decreased CC and CPS. The occurrence of S. aureus was significantly (p < 0.05) higher in bulk farm milk (42%) than in pooled udder milk (37.3%), teat swabs (22.5%), milkers’ hand swabs (18%), bulking bucket swabs (16.7%), milking container swabs (14%), and water for cleaning of udder and milkers’ hands (10%). The questionnaire survey result showed widespred raw milk consumption habits, low level of training and poor hygienic milking practices.
This study revealed low-quality bulk farm milk with high bacterial counts and a high occurrence of S. aureus. This indicates the potential food safety risks due to consumption of raw milk or its products. This study suggests awareness creation to dairy farmers and the public on hygienic milk production and heat treatment of milk before consumption.