1. In an experiment of 3 x 3 latin square design, four lactating Holstein cows were given a basal ration designed to induce low percentages of milk fat. The treatments were (I) basal ration, a pelleted mixture of lucerne hay (20%) and concentrates (80%), with 40 l. of water infused intraruminally, (2) basal ration with acetic acid substituted for 15.4% of the metabolizable energy (ME) and (3) propionic acid substituted for 15.4% of the ME. In the last 3 weeks of the 6-week experimental period respiration trials were carried out in an open-circuit indirect calorimeter. The levels of feeding offered in the three periods were 325, 275 and 225 kcal ME/kg body-weight 0.75 in periods 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
2. No differences were detected in the utilization of the energy of acetic and propionic acids, but there were differences in the partition of energy into milk or body tissues; with acetic acid infusion more energy was secreted as milk and with propionic acid infusion more was deposited in body tissue.
3. There was an increase in milk fat percentage with acetic acid infusion, but not complete recovery to normal. The milk fat percentages were 1.96, 2.58 and 1.92 for treatments 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Acetic acid infusion caused increases in the C12, C14 and C16 fatty acids of milk fat and decreased the proportion of C18:1 fatty acids.
4. It is suggested that the low percentages of milk fat found when cows are given concen- trates could result from a decreased extent of fermentation in the rumen, allowing a greater proportion of the starch consumed to be absorbed as glucose in the small intestine.