1. When 103Ru-labelled Tris (1, 10-phenanthroline) ruthenium II chloride (103Ru-P) particulate marker in aqueous solution was added to the rumen of four steers given 5.5 kg grass hay/d at two-hourly intervals, the distribution of 103Ru-P marker among rumen particles of various sizes was the same at 4 h, 3 d and 7 d after administration, the concentration of 103Ru-P/g dry matter (DM) was inversely related to particle size and 0.30 of the 103Ru-P was associated with the DM of particles too large to be moved from the rumen at a meaningful rate. Thus, fractional outflow rate (FOR) of 103Ru-P would reflect, but was not a direct measure of, the FOR of the small particle pool in the rumen.
2. When rumen digesta were labelled with 103Ru-P, placed in nylon cloth bags and incubated in vitro with unlabelled digesta, 59% of the 103Ru-P disappeared from the nylon bag in 24 h, and 74% in 48 h. Similar results were obtained when large particles (retained by a 3.2 mm mesh screen during wet sieving) from rumen digesta were subjected to this procedure.
3. In a further experiment, the steers were given the hay in either the long or ground form and drinking water to which 10 g sodium chloride/l were, or were not, added.
4. The FOR of 51CrEDTA in centrifuged rumen fluid was increased (P < 0.05) from 1.78 to 2.10/d by grinding of the hay diet, but was not influenced by the intake of an additional 257 g NaCl/d. The FOR values of 103Ru-P in mixed rumen digesta and organic 35S in micro-organisms were linearly correlated (P < 0.05) and were not affected (P < 0.05) by grinding and salt treatments. On average, the FOR of organic 35S in micro-organisms was 0.41 of that of 51CrEDTA in centrifuged rumen fluid and 0.85 of that of 103Ru-P in rumen digesta respectively.
5. Grinding of the hay did not (P > 0.05) change the proportion of rumen DM (0.476–0.515) or faecal DM (0.107–0.153) retained by the 3.2 mm mesh and larger screens.
6. FOR from the rumen of a given size group of particles was calculated as the ratio, estimated daily flow from the rumen of the size group: rumen pool of the group. With increasing particle size there was a progressive decline in FOR; values of FOR for groups of particles greater than 4.0 mm were negligible. If the rumen DM was considered to behave as two pools, the 3.2 mm mesh screen appeared to be an appropriate division between the large-particle and the small-particle DM pools.
7. FOR of lignin present in mixed rumen digesta was 0.48 of the mean of the FOR values of the particle groups of the small-particle pool, while the FOR of lignin present in the small-particle pool was 0.92 of the mean small-particle FOR.