Nitrogen metabolism is reviewed with emphasis on methods for quantitating various nitrogen-transactions in the rumen of animals on a variety of diets. Ammonia kinetics, microbial cell synthesis, the inputs of endogenous nitrogen, degradation of dietary protein, and availability to the animal of dietary bypass protein are discussed. The efficiency of microbial protein from the rumen is discussed in relation to the ratio of protein to energy in the nutrients available to meet the requirements of the animal. The ratio is determined largely by the maintenance requirements of microbes and the breakdown of microbial materials, which result in the recycling of microbial nitrogen in the rumen. Emphasis is placed on the role of rumen protozoa in decreasing the ratio of protein to energy in absorbed nutrients in ruminants on diets that are marginally deficient in protein. Recent studies of the dynamics of protozoa in the rumen and their contribution to microbial protein outflow are summarized.