To investigate the occurrence and levels of Arcobacter spp. in pig effluent ponds and effluent-treated soil. A Most Probable Number (MPN) method was developed to assess the levels of Arcobacter spp. in seven pig effluent ponds and six effluent-treated soils, immediately after effluent irrigation. Arcobacter spp. levels in the effluent ponds varied from 6.5 x 10(5) to 1.1 x 10(8) MPN 100 ml(-1) and in freshly irrigated soils from 9.5 x 10(2) to 2.8 x 10(4) MPN g(-1) in all piggery environments tested. Eighty-three Arcobacter isolates were subjected to an abbreviated phenotypic test scheme and examined using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The PCR identified 35% of these isolates as Arcobacter butzleri, 49% as Arcobacter cryaerophilus while 16% gave no band. All 13 nonreactive isolates were subjected to partial 16S rDNA sequencing and showed a high similarity (>99%) to Arcobacter cibarius. A. butzleri, A. cryaerophilus and A. cibarius were isolated from both piggery effluent and effluent-irrigated soil, at levels suggestive of good survival in the effluent pond. This is the first study to provide quantitative information on Arcobacter spp. levels in piggery effluent and to associate A. cibarius with pigs and piggery effluent environments.