Two-year-old Romney wethers were fed diets with (a) varying proportions of N (0·5, 1·1, 1·4 and 3·4%) while on similar digestible organic matter (DOM) intake, and (b) the same proportions of N with different DOM intake.
The composition of rumen volatile and unesterified fatty acids, as well as of lipids and fatty acids of plasma, liver, muscle and perirenal fat, was determined.
When the proportions of dietary N were varied the findings were as follows: in the rumenahigh level of propionate (37%) was found on the 1·4% N diet, unsaturated fatty acids constituted between 20 and 30% of rumen unesterified fatty acids with diets containing 0·5 and 3·4% N, while sheep on 1·1 and 1·4% N diets had 70·80% unsaturated fatty acids. In plasma and tissues other than the liver there was a greater proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in sheep fed the 1·4% N diet. Total liver lipids were highest on the 0·5 and 3·4% N diets. Perirenal fat was highest on the 0·5% N diet.
With the exception of unesterified cholesterol, tissue and plasma cholesterol concentrations decreased with increasing dietary N content.
Increased DOM intake while the proportion of dietary N was kept constant caused few changes in lipid and fatty acid composition of rumen, plasma and tissues.