Data from a field study of 14 months duration in a naturally colonized dairy herd and data from an experiment with calves were used to quantify transmission of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC O157) in cattle. For the latter, two groups of 10 calves were randomly assigned and put out in one of two pastures. From each group, five animals were experimentally inoculated with 109 c.f.u. O157 VTEC and, considered infectious, put back in their group. Each of the susceptible contact calves became positive within 6 days of being reunited. The estimate of the basic reproduction ratio (R0) in the experiment was 7·3 (95% CI 3·92–11·5), indicating that each infectious calf will infect seven other calves on average during an assumed infectious period of 28 days in a fully susceptible population. The R0 among dairy cows appeared to be about 10 times lower (0·70, 95% CI 0·48–1·04). After the transmission experiment, six contact-infected animals that were shedding continuously during the experiment were housed in a tie stall during winter. After 40 days, all six tested negative for O157 VTEC. In June, after a period of 34 weeks in which the heifers remained negative, they were put out in a clean and isolated pasture to observe whether they started shedding again. On each pasture that was infected with O157 VTEC during the transmission experiment the previous summer, newly purchased susceptible calves were placed. None of the heifers or calves started shedding during 14 weeks, indicating that both the heifers and the previously contaminated pasture did not function as reservoir of O157 VTEC.