The outer surfaces of plant leaves and stems are covered with a waxy layer, a considerable fraction of which comprises n-alkanes which are not digested and, therefore, can be used as markers in animal nutrition studies. Most plant species have a characteristic pattern of n-alkane concentrations in their cuticular wax and this enables the diet composition to be estimated by comparison with the pattern of the n-alkanes in faeces. N-alkane recovery in faeces was determined in a digestibility trial involving three different diets given to four goats, six cows and five calves. The validity of using n-alkane markers to determine diet composition was examined in in vivo feeding trials with goats and cows. The recovery of the odd chain length n-alkanes increased linearly with n-alkane chain length, with no significant differences between treatments. Estimates of diet composition were affected by the faecal n-alkane recovery rate. N-alkanes in plant cuticular wax can be used as natural markers for estimating diet composition, but a recovery factor should be used to correct for incomplete recovery in faeces. More research is needed to extend the findings to wider ranges of diets, animals, environmental conditions and physiological and reproductive states.