Differences in the water-soluble carbohydrate concentrations of herbage of northern European perennial ryegrass cultivars (Aurora, Melle, Cariad) grown under southern Australian conditions, and a New Zealand perennial ryegrass cultivar (Ellett) which yields well in southern Australia, were investigated in relation to their nutritive value. The water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), total nitrogen, in vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), and digestibility of NDF (NDFD) were measured in all cultivars. Aurora and Cariad exhibited higher WSC concentrations than the other cultivars, particularly during summer. This buffered the decline in IVDMD that was due to declining NDFD at that time of the year and resulted in an improvement in IVDMD of between 2 and 6%. Although WSC and nitrogen concentrations of the herbage were negatively correlated, this was due mainly to divergent seasonal variation in these components of the herbage.