1. Constant infusions of D-[U-14C]glucose, D-[6−3H]glucose and L-[U-14C]lactate were used to determine rates of apparent turnover, de novo production, disposal and interconversions of glucose and lactate, together with total recycling of glucose-C, in ewes and dairy cows during late pregnancy and early lactation. The cows were also examined while being fasted. In the fed animals, infusions were made within 5 h after the morning meal when steady-state conditions appeared to exist.
2. In the ewes, circulating concentrations of glucose and lactate, and magnitudes of apparent turnovers of glucose and lactate, tended to be higher during lactation than during pregnancy, while the extent of interconversions of glucose and lactate tended to be lower.
3. Although the metabolic pattern seen in the cows appeared to be similar to that of the ewes during pregnancy, there were clear differences during lactation. Thus, in the lactating cows, as compared with the lactating ewes, circulating concentrations of glucose and lactate were lower, as was apparent lactate turnover related to metabolic body-weight. Furthermore, the percentage of lactate turnover converted to glucose was higher.
4. In the cows, fasting was characterized by low rates of apparent turnover of glucose and lactate and relatively high rates of interconversion of the two compounds.
5. The results indicated that, under the conditions used in this study and when feeding is to recommended levels, carbohydrate metabolism in ewes is more precarious during late pregnancy than during early lactation, while in dairy cows it is more or less equally precarious in both physiological states.
6. A further conclusion is that the extent of glucose–lactate interconversions, and thus Cori cycle activity, seems to be lower in ruminants than in other species.