The objective of the present study was to estimate ruminal feed N outflow in lactating cows using the omasal sampling, compartmental flux or in situ method. A total of five ruminally fistulated Finnish Ayrshire dairy cows were used in a 5 × 5 Latin square study with 21 d periods. Experimental silages of grass or red clover harvested at two stages of maturity in addition to a supplement of 9·0 kg concentrate/d were fed to the cows. In vivo omasal N flow was determined using the omasal sampling technique. Ruminal in situ N flow was calculated from N intake and degradability (38 μm nylon bags). The samples of ruminal contents and faeces were divided into seven particle-size fractions by wet sieving; the concentrations of indigestible neutral-detergent fibre and N were used to calculate N flow in the compartmental flux method. In vivo omasal N flow was greater for the red clover silage diets than for the grass silage diets. The N flow calculated using the compartmental flux technique and that calculated using the in situ technique were highly correlated, but both were less than and poorly correlated with the in vivo N flow. In both in situ and compartmental flux techniques, forage maturity increased the particle-associated N flow, with the increase being significantly greater for the red clover diets than for the grass silage diets. In conclusion, the compartmental flux and in situ methods described the N flow associated with the particle fractions rather than the total ruminal outflow of feed N.