Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were selected on the basis of characteristics indicating that they would be good candidates for a competitive exclusion product (CEP) that would inhibit Escherichia coli O157:H7 in the intestinal tract of live cattle. Fecal samples from cattle that were culture negative for E. coli O157:H7 were collected. LAB were isolated from cattle feces by repeated plating on deMan Rogosa Sharpe agar and lactobacillus selection agar. Six hundred eighty-six pure colonies were isolated, and an agar spot test was used to test each isolate for its inhibition of a four-strain mixture of E. coli O157:H7. Three hundred fifty-five isolates (52%) showed significant inhibition. Seventy-five isolates showing maximum inhibition were screened for acid and bile tolerance. Most isolates were tolerant of acid at pH levels of 2, 4, 5, and 7 and at bile levels of 0.05, 0.15, and 0.3% (oxgall) and were subsequently identified with the API system. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus delbreukii, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus cellobiosus, Leuconostoc spp., and Pediococcus acidilactici were the most commonly identified LAB. Nineteen strains were further tested for antibiotic resistance and inhibition of E. coli O157:H7 in manure and rumen fluid. Four of these 19 strains showed susceptibility to all of the antibiotics, 13 significantly reduced E. coli counts in manure, and 15 significantly reduced E. coli counts in rumen fluid (P < 0.05) during at least one of the sampling periods. One of the strains, M35, was selected as the best candidate for a CEP. A 16S rRNA sequence analysis of M35 revealed its close homology to Lactobacillus crispatus. The CEP developed will be used in cattle-feeding trials.