To investigate the potential use of n-alkanes (alkanes), long-chain alcohols (alcohols) and long-chain fatty acids (acids) for estimating the diet composition of sheep, in a feeding trial. A total of 18 sheep were assigned randomly to three different diets (diet A, diet B and diet C) containing up to eight herbage species (Leymus chinensis, Leymus dasystachys, Elymus sibiricum, Chenopodium album, Puccinellia chinampoensis, Medicago sativa, Saussurea sinuata and Bromus inermis). Faecal recoveries of alkanes, alcohols and acids were determined, and diet compositions were estimated using different combinations of alkanes, alcohols and acids. The faecal concentrations of individual alkanes, alcohols and acids were corrected using the mean recovery of the dietary treatment that the respective animal belonged to (diet recovery), or the mean recovery across all dietary treatments (general recovery). In general, diets did not affect the faecal recovery values for alkanes, alcohols and acids, and no difference in accuracy was found between diet composition estimates based on dietary recovery and general recovery. The accuracy of diet composition estimates declined as the number of dietary components increased from four to eight herbage species (P < 0.001). Better (P < 0.05) estimates of diet composition were obtained with the combinations of two or three marker types instead of alkanes alone. Moreover, results showed that excluding minor diet components from the calculations decreased (P < 0.05) the accuracy of diet composition estimates, whereas including extra non-grazed herbage species did not reduce (P > 0.05) the quality of diet composition estimates. These results confirmed the usefulness of alkanes, alcohols and acids as markers for determining complex diet composition of sheep. However, a negative impact on the accuracy of diet composition estimates, caused by missing minor diet components from the calculation of diet composition, could happen when plant wax markers are used to estimate the diet composition of free-ranging animals.