An experiment was carried out to examine the effect of increasing the proportion of Wimmera ryegrass hay in a lucerne hay-based diet on net transfer of nutrients to the intestine, and on the disappearance of n-alkanes in the reticulo-rumen and the hindgut of sheep. Following a latin square design, four adult ewes were fed 1:0, 0·33:0·67, 0·67:0·33 and 0:1 proportions of legume and grass. Increasing the proportion of ryegrass in the diet linearly decreased the intake of DM (P= 0·017), organic matter (P= 0·021) and N (P= 0·001). However, neutral-detergent fibre intake was not affected (P= 0·148), nor was its digestibility coefficient (P>0·10). Diet had no effect on duodenal flows of nutrients (P>0·10), although the proportion of N intake (NI) recovered at the duodenum as non-NH3 N (NAN) increased linearly with Lolium rigidum in the diet (P= 0·002). Full recovery of NI as NAN was achieved at NH3 concentrations in the rumen below 110 g/l. Microbial N contribution to NAN varied in a quadratic manner (P< 0·05) with the proportion of grass in the diet, although efficiency of microbial synthesis was not affected (P>0·10). Duodenal recovery of consumed n-alkanes was not affected by diet and was complete for those present in higher concentrations in the forages. Isolated rumen bacteria contained significant amounts of n-alkanes, contributing to the duodenal flow of these hydrocarbons in variable proportions depending on the diet consumed.