1. The efficiency of utilization of the dietary energy and nitrogen contained in a dried lucerne (Medicago sativa cv. Chartainvilliers) given either chopped (CL) or ground (1.96 mm screen) and pelleted (PL), was measured in a comparative slaughter experiment. Growing lambs were given equal amounts of digestible energy in the chopped or pelleted form at each at each of the three planes of nutrition for a period of 100 d.
2. The initial energy, fat and protein content of both the carcass and the total body of the test lambs was estimated from regression equations between fasted (18 h) live weight and these components, derived from a group of twenty-three comparable lambs. The final energy, fat and protein content of the test lambs was determined directly by chemical analyses.
3. The metabolizable energy (ME) content of the diets was derived at each plane of nutrition from measured faecal and urinary losses and estimated methane losses. The depression in ME content with grinding and pelleting the dried lucerne was small (CL 8.69 MJ/kg dry matter (DM), PL 8.42 MJ/kg DM).
4. The efficiency of utilization of the ME of the dried lucerne for growth and fattening was higher (P < 0.01) when given in the ground pelleted form (0.533), than in the chopped form (0.284). The net energy value of the PL (3.5 MJ/kg DM) was higher than that of CL (2.2 MJ/kg DM).
5. Thus lambs fed on PL grew faster and had a higher caracass weight gain, carcass protein and fat retention than lambs fed on CL. The composition of the carcass was not altered by the physical processing treatment.
6. Digestion studies with these same CL and PL diets had shown that grinding and pelleting depressed digestion in the forestomachs and increased digestion in the small intestine compared with the chopped form. The increased efficiency of utilization of the gross energy and ME and the higher net energy value of PL was attributed primarily to a change in the site of digestion within the alimentary tract. Associated with this change was a higher value for absorbed amino acids : absorbed energy and an increased apparent absorption of methionine for lambs fed on PL. The difference in the energy costs of eating and ruminating the CL and PL was small.