1. The role of soluble nutrients and of the solid matrix in rumen fermentation was investigated in some detail, and experiments designed to explore the possibility of using a balanced soluble diet and an inert solid matrix, are described.
2. The use of a balanced soluble substrate as the only source of nutrients in the presence of an inert solid phase in the reaction vessels results in vigorous fermentation but is accompanied by disappearance of protozoa from the effluent.
3. In the absence of digestible solid phase, the rate of fermentation and the fermentation pattern depends mainly on the amount and type of nutrients supplied and to a smaller extent on the dilution rate, the variations being greatest at low dilution rates.
4. The solid matrix in the form of wood shavings or the residue remaining after prolonged digestion of hay could sequestrate micro-organisms and could be used as solid phase, but the defined mixture of soluble substrates used resulted in somewhat abnormal fermentation compared with fermentation obtained with solid food.
5. When the solid food included some hay extract and when the dilution rate was not too great a reduced output of protozoa could be maintained. At high dilution rate the outflow of protozoa was negligible and yet considerable numbers of protozoa were found in the solid matrix and associated liquid.
6. A three-compartment model was developed to describe the flow of liquid and microbial matter within the simplified system.