Six ruminal cannulated Texel sheep were used to assess the dose response and the effect of live yeasts (Levucell® SC, Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077) on the prevention of induced ruminal latent acidosis. The sheep received, in a replicated 3×3 Latin-square design, an acidotic diet (wheat +lucerne hay, 60:40 (dry matter (DM) basis); starch: 410 g/kg DM) without yeast (control group; L0 treatment), supplemented with 0·2 g/day yeast (4×109 colony-forming units (c.f.u.) per day corresponding to producer recommendations; L1 treatment) or with 2 g/day yeast (4×1010 c.f.u. per day; L10 treatment). The following measurements were carried out: food intake, ruminal pH, ruminal volatile fatty acids (VFA), lactate and ammonia (NH3) concentrations, protozoal and lactate-utilizing bacterial counts, relative proportions of two main bacteria implicated in lactate metabolism (a lactate-producing species, Streptococcus bovis, and a lactate-utilizing species, Megasphaera elsdenii) using specific 16S-rRNA-targeting oligonucleotide probes, activities of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and of polysaccharidases involved in plant cell wall (xylanase, carboxymethylcellulase) and starch (amylase) degradation. The acidotic diet (L0) induced a butyric (12 mol per 100 mol total VFA) rather than lactic (<4 mmol/l) ruminal latent acidosis. Ruminal pH, fermentative patterns, lactate-metabolizing bacteria (concentration, LDH activity) and polysaccharidase activities were similar between treatments (P>0·1). Yeast supplementation tended to increase ruminal protozoal population (P<0·1) and intake of animals (P<0·1). The recommended yeast concentration (L1) was sufficient to ensure these effects. The yeast's action may differ according to the nature and function of the micro-organisms involved and the type of fermentative pattern favoured (protozoa/butyrate v. lactate-metabolizing bacteria/lactate and propionate) during ruminal acidosis in sheep.