1. Experiments were undertaken to examine the kinetics of large ciliate protozoa in the rumen of cattle on sugar-cane diets.
2. Three Zebu bulls were fed once daily on a diet of sugar cane and wheat bran. The diurnal patterns of volatile fatty acids and ammonia concentrations, and the numbers of protozoa in rumen fluid were determined. The numbers of protozoa reached values of 5 × 104/ml for holotrichs (large ciliates) mainly Isoiricha and Dasytricha spp and 4 × 105 for smaller protozoa, mainiy Entodinia (small ciliates)
3. A method was developed which allowed large ciliate protozoa in rumen fluid to be separated from plant material and bacteria and concentrated in a relatively uncontaminated form. Analysis of these protozoa indicated that 1.8 × 105 large ciliates contained 1 mg nitrogen and approximately 32 mg dry matter
4. A labelled preparation consisting mainly of large ciliates (principally Isotricha spp.) was obtained by incubating isolated protozoa in rumen fluid (free of plant materials) containing [14C-methyl]choline and then isolating them by sedimentation and differential centrifugation
5. A portion of the preparation containing labelled protozoa was incubated in vitro with rumen fluid to determine the turnover of 14C-labelled metabolites. There was no apparent dilution of the label in the protozoa over a 22 h period
6. A major portion of the preparation containing labelled protozoa was returned to the rumen of each of the donor cattle as a single injection. The specific radioactivity in the large protozoa (μCi/mg N) was monitored frequently for over 30 h, and thereafter daily for a further 12 d. The kinetics of tracer dilution were analyzed to give estimates of the size of the pool of these large ciliates in the rumen (24–46 g N), and of their apparent rate of turnover
7. In contrast to the slow turnover of the large ciliates, the rate of turnover of the rumen fluid pool (approximately 54 l), estimated from the rate of dilution of polyethylene glycol, was considerably faster. Large ciliates were therefore selectively retained within the rumen