The effect of rumen liquid volume, pH and concentration of volatile fatty acids (VFA) on the rates of absorption of acetic, propionic and butyric acids from the rumen was examined in lactating dairy cows. Experimental solutions introduced into the emptied, washed rumen comprised two different volumes (10 or 30 1), four levels of pH (4.5, 5.4, 6.3, 7.2) and three levels of individual VFA concentrations (20, 50 or 100 mM-acetic, propionic or butyric acid). All solutions contained a total of 170 mM-VFA and an osmotic value of 400 mOsmol/l. Absorption rates were calculated from the disappearance of VFA from the rumen corrected for passage with liquid phase to the omasum. An increase in initial fluid pH caused a reduction in fractional absorption rates of propionic and butyric acids. Increasing the initial pH from 4.5 to 7.2 reduced fractional absorption rates of acetic, propionic and butyric acids from 0.35, 0.67 and 0.85 to 0.21, 0.35 and 0.28/h respectively. The fractional absorption rates of all VFA were reduced (P < 0.05) by an increase in initial rumen volume. The fractional absorption rate of acetic acid was lower (P < 0.05) at an initial concentration of 20 mM than of 50 mM. The fractional absorption rate of propionic acid tended (P < 0.10) to decrease as the level of concentration increased while fractional absorption rate of butyric acid was not affected by butyric acid concentration. These results indicate that relative concentrations of VFA in rumen fluid might not represent relative production rates and that attempts to estimate individual VFA production from substrate digestion must take account of pH and VFA concentration.