An experiment was conducted using steers cannulated at the rumen, duodenum and ileum to study the effects of increasing the levels of barley and fishmeal in straw-based diets. Diets A, B, C and D contained ammonia-treated straw, barley and fishmeal in the ratios, 67:33:0, 66:23:11, 53:47:0 and 52:36:12 (by weight) and were offered in daily amounts of 3·9, 3·9, 4·8 and 4·8 kg dry matter. The effects of barley were attributable to increased intakes of digestible organic matter and consequently to increased flows of microbial matter to the duodenum. There were no modifications in the balance of energy to nitrogen-yielding nutrients available for absorption. Introducing fishmeal into diets improved digestibility of cellulose and xylose by up to 6.7 and 4.7 % respectively, and shifted digestion towards the large intestine. Second, it increased amino acid N supply to the small intestine which averaged 52·2, 63·2, 68·8 and 84·0 g/d with diets A, B, C and D. Some changes were also noted in the balance of amino acids absorbed. Consequently, the contribution of amino acids to metabolizable energy intake increased with the proportion of fishmeal in diets (0·17, 0·20, 0·18 and 0·21 for diets A, B, C and D).
Growth rates measured in heifers amounted to 259, 431, 522 and 615 g/d for diets A, B, C and D. They appeared to be related to intestinal amino acid supply.