Abstract Enterococcus faecium (54 strains), E. faecalis (40 strains), and E. durans (14) were isolated from various dairy products (raw milk, cream, butter and fermented milk products) during a previous study (Wessels et al., 1988). In this article various characteristics of these isolates, which may have a bearing on their significance in dairy products, have been studied. A large percentage of the identified strains of all three species were able to grow at 7°C. Seventy-six percent of the E. faecium strains, 62% E. faecalis and 50% E. durans strains also showed proteolytic activity at psychrotrophic temperatures. The fact that proteolytic activity could be detected within 2 days at 7°C is significant, since bulk cooled milk is normally held for 3 to 4 days at temperatures between 4 and 7°C at farms or factories prior to processing. This examination confirmed that enterococci are proteolytic rather than lipolytic.