A ligated intestine model in calves, pigs, and rabbits was tested for its value as an indicator of virulence of potential vaccine strains of Salmonella typhimurium. A wild virulent strain (3860C), a laboratory strain LT2, and mutants of these 2 strains were evaluated. Inoculation of calf intestinal segments with strain 3860C revealed that fluid responses were greatest in the proximal portion of the small intestine and that doses greater than 10(7) organisms were required to produce fluid responses and mucosal damage. Immunoperoxidase-stained sections of intestine revealed that a large dose of Salmonella organisms was required before mucosal invasion could be detected. Aromatic (aroA), galactose epimerase (galE), and diaminopimelic acid (dap) mutants of strain 3860C all resulted in much less fluid response, mucosal invasion, and mucosal damage compared with those by the parent organism. Strain LT2 induced such weak responses that it was not possible to evaluate reductions in virulence of its mutants. In 6-week-old pigs, there was no fluid response to any strains; however, in 1-week-old pigs, there was fluid response to the wild strain and some of its mutants. In adult rabbits, fluid responses were not observed, except when the wild strain was inoculated in the proximal portion of the small intestine. The calf and 1-week-old pig models appeared to be best suited for assessment of virulence of mutant strains of S typhimurium.