In vitro fermentations containing a mixed culture of ruminal bacteria (ruminal fluid from a hay-fed steer), buffer, and primarily rapidly degradable substrates (starch, glucose, cellulose, cellobiose, and trypticase) were inoculated with an overnight culture of Megasphaera elsdenii B159. Triplicate flasks were either uninoculated or inoculated to obtain a final concentration of 8.7 x 10(5) and 8.7 x 10(6) colony forming units of M. elsdenii per milliliter of culture fluid. Inoculation with M. elsdenii prevented an accumulation of lactic acid and excessive drop in pH. Lactate peaked at more than 40 mM in untreated cultures. In cultures inoculated with a low dose of M. elsdenii, lactate concentration peaked at approximately 25 mM at 5 h of fermentation but decreased rapidly to less than 5 mM by 7 h of fermentation. With the addition of the high dose of M. elsdenii, lactate was never greater than 2 mM (P < .05) throughout fermentation. Cultures treated with M. elsdenii had greater amounts (P < .05) of isobutyrate, butyrate, isovalerate, and valerate than untreated cultures. After 24 h of fermentation, one-half of the culture fluid was transferred to an equal volume of fresh buffer with substrate but was not inoculated with further quantities of M. elsdenii. Six hours after transfer, cultures that had been originally treated with M. elsdenii had lower (P < .05) amounts of lactate than untreated cultures. Inoculation with M. elsdenii has potential to prevent lactate accumulation in diets containing readily fermentable carbohydrates.