A significant proportion of the grass silage fed to lactating dairy cows may be of only modest quality due either to delayed harvesting and/or poor ensiling conditions. In such situations, both total feed intake and milk production are likely to be compromised with the consequent need to feed more concentrates. Part of this effect is considered to be due to the development of a solid mass of digesta in the rumen, with loss of the normal layered or biphasic stratification of rumen contents. Under such conditions, rumen motility, rate of forage digestion and hence voluntary feed intake will be compromised. Mertens (1997) stressed that chemical definition of dietary fibre such as neutral- (NDF) or acid-detergent (ADF) fibre content was an inadequate description of the fibre content of a diet as it affects rumen function and animal performance. Consequently he proposed both effective NDF (eNDF; ability of a feed to replace a roughage with no negative effect on milk fat content) and physically effective NDF (peNDF; a measure of the physical properties of fibre as it stimulates chewing activity and development of the biphasic stratification of rumen contents) as additional descriptors of the physical characteristics of dietary fibre but to date these concepts have attracted limited attention in the UK. This study examined the effect of replacing increasing amounts of grass silage (GS) on a dry matter (DM) basis in a silage:concentrate ration with pressed sugar beet pulp (PP) on various processes of digestion in the rumen of lactating dairy cows, specifically in relation to chewing activity and rumen mat density.