1. The effect of supplementing barley diets with urea (U), extracted, decorticated groundnut meal (GNM) or Peruvian fish meal (PFM) on rumen bacterial protein synthesis and the proportion of undegraded food protein passing to the duodenum of sheep has been examined.
2. Three wethers were given isonitrogenous, isoenergetic diets containing (g/kg dry matter (DM)): U 20, GNM 106 or PFM 78, the crude protein (nitrogen × 6.25) contents being 139, 145 and 148 respectively. The sheep were fed hourly, the mean daily intake of DM being 0.634 kg.
3. Rumen bacterial protein synthesis was determined using 35S and diaminopimelic acid (DAPA) as bacterial markers and polyethylene glycol (PEG) and chromic oxide as markers of digesta flow. Rumen volatile fatty acid (VFA) production rate was determined by a continuous infusion of [I-14C]acetate. 4. and DAPA gave similar estimates of the proportion of bacterial N in the trichloroacetic acid- precipitable nitrogen of the rumen digesta, the mean value being 0.86. The VFA production rate did not vary significantly between diets, the mean being 5.8 mol/24 h. The flow of bacterial N from the rumen was calculated from the PEG and Cr2O3, estimates of flow and the 35S and DAPA estimates of the proportion of bacterial N in the rumen. and DAPA gave similar values (mean 12.5 g/24 h) and Cr2O3, gave a slightly lower value (11.5 g/24 h) than PEG (13.5 g/24 h). Dietary effects, averaged over the four methods, were not significant; the values were 13.0, 13.4 and I 1–0 g/24 h for the U, GNM and PFM diets respectively.
5. Duodenal samples were taken from two 12h continuous collections from re-entrant cannulas and the DM flow adjusted to total recovery of Cr2O3,. The mean recovery of Cr203 at the duodenum was 0.798. The rates of flow of DM were 0.296,0.311 and 0.334 kg/24 h and of non-ammonia-N (NAN) 13.5, 15.2 and 15.4 g/24 h on the U, GNM and PFM diets respectively.
6. The concentrationsof the essential amino acids in duodenal digestaweregenerally higher with the PFM diet than with either of the other two diets. The flow of most amino acids through the duodenum was generally higher on the PFM and GNM diets than on the U diet.
7. The energetic efficiency of bacterial protein synthesis was calculated to be 2.1 g bacterial N/mol VFA or 28 g bacterial N/kg organic matter fermented in the rumen.
8. From the estimates of bacterial N flow from the rumen and NAN flow through the duodenum it was calculated that 0.22 and 0.69 of the supplemental N from GNM and PFM respectively passed through the rumen undegraded.