1. Six adult, non-pregnant, non-lactating, Friesian cows were used when fat and when thin to measure differences in the voluntary intakes of straw, hay and hay plus concentrates caused by the fatness of the animals. Measurements of digestibility, time of retention of food in the digestive tract, rate of breakdown of cotton threads in the ventral sac of the rumen and amounts of digesta in the reticule-rumen were included.
2. The mean voluntary intakes of straw were similar for fat and thin cows. In absolute terms, thin cows consumed 31 % more hay and 23 yo more hay and concentrates than fat cows; in relation to metabolic body size (W0.75), these differences were 76% and 52% respectively.
3. Small decreases in digestibility of these diets by the thin cows, reflected in slight reductions in the rate of loss of weight of cotton threads placed in the rumen, did not alter the significance of the differences in intake between fat and thin cows.
4. Small changes in time of retention of food in the digestive tract suggested that the capacity of the tract may have been greatest in the thin cows.
5. The presence of a greater amount of digesta in the reticulo-rumen of thin cows than in that of fat cows after eating hay supports the suggestion of a greater gut capacity in these animals. In both fat and thin cows, the capacity of thereticulo-rumen didnot appearto havelimited the intake of the hay and concentrate diet. In both groups the lowest levels of rumen fill were observed after straw was given.
6. The results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms which may operate to reduce the voluntary intake of medium- and good-quality diets as cows become fatter. When poorquality roughages are given, other factors appear to conceal any differences in intake which may exist between fat and thin cows.