Methane produced from formate is one of the important methanogensis pathways in the rumen. However, quantitative information of CH4 production from formate has been rarely reported. The aim of this study was to characterize the conversion rate (CR) of formic acid into CH4 and CO2 by rumen microorganisms. Ground lucerne hay was incubated with buffered ruminal fluid for 6, 12, 24 and 48 h. Before the incubation, 13C-labeled H13COOH was also supplied into the incubation bottle at a dose of 0, 1.5, 2.2 or 2.9 mg/g of DM substrate. There were no interactions (P>0.05) between dose and incubation time for all variables evaluated. When expressed as an absolute amount (ml in gas sample) or a relative CR (%), both 13CH4 and 13CO2 production quadratically increased (P<0.01) with the addition of H13COOH. The total 13C (13CH4 and 13CO2) CR was also quadratically increased (P<0.01) when H13COOH was added. Moreover, formate addition linearly decreased (P<0.031) the concentrations of NH3-N, total and individual volatile fatty acids (acetate, propionate and butyrate), and quadratically decreased (P<0.014) the populations of protozoa, total methanogens, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, Methanobrevibacter ruminantium M1, Methanobrevibacter smithii and Methanosarcina barkeri. In summary, formate affects ruminal fermentation and methanogenesis, as well as the rumen microbiome, in particular microorganisms which are directly or indirectly involved in ruminal methanogenesis. This study provides quantitative verification for the rapid dissimilation of formate into CH4 and CO2 by rumen microorganisms.