1. The nitrogen balance and creatinine excretion of wether lambs of 30–48 kg, wholly nourished by the intragastric infusion of nutrients, were measured in two experiments. Four lambs were used in each experiment. In Expt 1 a constant amount of casein was infused into the abomasum (640 mg N/kg body-weight (W)0·75 per d) and the amount of volatile fatty acids (VFA) infused into the rumen ranged from 0 to 670 kJ/kg W0·75 per d as six increments. Expt 2 was of similar design but two levels of casein were infused (530 and 1060 mg N/kg W0·75 per d) and, with each level of casein, VFA infused ranged from 0 to 700 kJ/kg W0·75 per d as seven increments.
2. Daily creatinine excretion was not constant, but varied between 2-d means with standard deviations of between 7·1 and 16·5% (average 13·1%) of the over-all means. There was an apparent correlation between creatinine excretion and the amount of energy infused in six out of eight lambs. There was no effect of the amount of casein infused.
3. In both experiments N balance was negative only when the amount of energy infused was substantially below published values for energy maintenance. In Expt 1, N equilibrium was calculated to be achieved at a gross (VFA plus protein) energy infusion level of 162 (SE 29) kJ/kg W0·75 per d. In Expt 2 it was observed that, at a given level of energy infusion, N retention was greater when the amount of energy had been increased from the previous level, than when it had been decreased.
4. It is concluded that the animal appears to allocate available amino acids to protein synthesis, rather than to oxidation, even when in negative energy balance. It is also concluded that the enhanced N retention observed when the amount of energy infused had been increased represented compensation after a period of energy restriction.