1. Eleven mature goats were offered 140 kJ metabolizable energy/kg per d (M) of lucerne (Medicago sativa) hay-oaten grain (1:1, w/w) for at least 1 month before plasma non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA) kinetics and tritiated water space (TS) were determined.
2. Goats were then fed at M, 0.5 M or 0.25 M for 34 (se 6) d, at which time the experimental procedures were repeated.
3. Chronic undernutrition resulted in elevated NEFA concentrations and NEFA entry rate, with a tendency for the ratio plasma NEFA:glycerol to increase, suggesting that body-fat mobilization during prolonged underfeeding is due more to decreased lipogenesis and intracellular NEFA re-esterification rather than to increased lipolysis.
4. Plasma NEFA concentrations and NEFA entry rate, as well as being highly correlated with each other, were significantly related to calculated energy balance and body fat losses estimated from changes in live weight and TS.
5. Increases in NEFA entry rate were highly correlated with, and of the same magnitude as, body fat losses, confirming that NEFA kinetics do quantitatively reflect lipid mobilization.