The objectives of this study were to determine the relative effect of feeding corn silage (CS), fermented whole-crop wheat (FWCW), and urea-treated processed whole-crop wheat (UPWCW) compared with grass silage (GS), each supplemented with concentrates, on forage intake, ruminal fermentation, microbial protein synthesis, some plasma metabolites, and ruminal and total tract digestibility in cattle. Four ruminally fistulated steers with a mean BW of 509 kg (SD 6.3) were used in a 4 x 4 Latin square-designed experiment with each period lasting 21 d. The omasal sampling technique in combination with a triple marker method was used to measure nutrient flows to the omasum with Co-EDTA, Yb acetate, and indigestible NDF as liquid, small particle, and large particle phase markers, respectively. Microbial N flow was assessed from purine base concentrations. Steers fed CS, FWCW, and UPWCW consumed 2.7, 2.4, and 2.6 kg/d more (P < 0.05) forage and total DMI, respectively, than those fed GS-based diets. Rumen pH (P = 0.07) and lactic acid (P = 0.11) concentration did not differ between the forages. Rumen concentration of NH(3)-N was greatest for UPWCW and least for CS (P < 0.001). Total VFA concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) for CS than GS and UPWCW, with FWCW being intermediate. Acetate-to-propionate ratio (P < 0.05) was greater (P < 0.05) for UPWCW than the other forages, which did not differ. Apparent ruminal digestion of OM (P < 0.05) was less for CS, FWCW, and UPWCW than GS. Ruminal NDF digestibility was greater (P < 0.01) for GS than the other forages, which did not differ (P > or = 0.06). Total tract NDF digestibility was less (P < 0.05) for UPWCW than the other forages, with GS being greatest and CS and FWCW being intermediate. Starch intake was less (P < 0.001) for GS than the other forages, but there was no effect of forage on omasal starch flow (P = 0.23) or ruminal digestibility (P = 0.88). Flow of non-NH(3)-N and microbial N was greater (P < 0.05) for CS, FWCW, and UPWCW than GS. Efficiency of microbial N synthesis was greater (P < 0.05) for FWCW than GS and CS, with UPWCW being intermediate. Plasma beta-hydroxybutyrate concentrations were greatest with CS and least for GS (P < 0.001), whereas concentrations of plasma urea were least for CS and greatest for UPWCW (P < 0.001). In conclusion, feeding alternative forages to GS can significantly increase feed DMI and alter rumen fermentation and site of nutrient digestion when offered to cattle supplemented with 3 kg of concentrate daily.