Four ewes, each fitted with a rumen cannula and with catheters in the mesenteric artery and portal and mesenteric veins, received continuous intrarumen infusions of water or of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA infusions were isoenergetic (83 kJ/h) and provided rumen molar proportions (acetate : propionate : butyrate) of 70 : 20 : 10, 50 : 40 : 10 or 50 : 20 : 30. The rumen SCFA production rate with the basal diet was 90·0, 23·1 and 8·8 mmol/h for acetate, propionate and butyrate respectively. Portal net fluxes indicated that 74, 67 and 22–30 % of infused acetate, propionate and butyrate respectively, reached the portal vein. Portal net release of β-hydroxybutyrate increased with SCFA infusions, irrespective of the amount of butyrate infused. Portal net release of lactate decreased with high-butyrate infusion. Portal net uptake of glucose increased with the SCFA infusions. In ewes infused with water, a portal net uptake of total amino acids (AA) was observed. SCFA infusions decreased the uptake of nonessential AA (glutamate, glycine, but not glutamine) and increased the net release of tyrosine and essential AA (isoleucine, leucine). Portal net fluxes of AA were similar with both high-acetate and high-propionate infusions. Lower net uptake of glutamine and net release of most essential AA and some nonessential AA were observed with the high-butyrate infusion. Energetic summation of portal net release was not significantly different between the three SCFA infusions, although it tended to be lower with high-butyrate infusion. This may be related to the higher trophic effect of butyrate on the digestive mucosa.