A 12-month abattoir study was undertaken from January 2003. We collected 7492 intestinal samples from cattle, sheep and pigs at slaughter. Rectal samples were taken from cattle and sheep and caecal samples from pigs. They were examined for verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) O157, Salmonella, thermophilic Campylobacter and Yersinia enterocolitica. Data were collected on the animal from which the sample came and this information was analysed to look at potential risk factors for carriage of these organisms. Logistic regression models were run where an adequate number of positive results were available. This revealed that VTEC O157 carriage in cattle was associated with the summer period and that age was a protective factor. Salmonella carriage in pigs was associated with lairage times >12 h, the North East and not feeding when there was no bedding available. In cattle, carriage was associated with the summer period, the Eastern region of GB and dairy animals. In sheep a spring seasonal effect was seen, which coincided with the lambing period. The carriage of thermophilic Campylobacter in cattle was associated with single-species abattoirs, with age a protective factor. In sheep, winter was a risk period with lairage management influential. For pigs, lairage times of <12 h were found to be associated with carriage. A seasonal trend for carriage of Y. enterocolitica in all species was demonstrated with the period December–May a risk. For cattle, age was also a risk factor; for sheep feeding in the lairage and for pigs being held overnight were risk factors.