The pathways of N in aerobic farm waste treatment systems are discussed in relation to the dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH of the mixed liquor. The change in pH, DO, oxygen uptake rate and nitrogen balance were monitored under steady, and non-steady, state conditions in an oxidation ditch treating undiluted pig waste. A kinetic analysis of the mass balance for nitrogen allowed an interpretation of the fate of nitrogen under different prevailing conditions. Undesirable accumulations of nitrite were noted in the presence of high levels of free NH3 and HNO2. The process was self-promoting and was encouraged by the influx of raw waste. Concentrations of 500 mg 1-1 NO2-N and 1200 mg 1-1 NO3-N were the maximum values observed and were considered to be the concentrations at which product inhibition arrested nitrifying activity. Attainment of these levels prevented complete nitrification despite an adequate retention time. pH and DO were inversely related probably through nitrification, but pH appeared to be lowered by accumulation of nitrite and nitrate anions, and thus by the balance between nitrification and denitrification. Considerable N loss through denitrification was found to occur despite apparently aerobic mixed liquors. At low DO simultaneous nitrification-denitrification could eliminate 90 per cent of the soluble-N. NH3 desorption in laboratory cultures was found to be first order in free NH3 but was not a significant mode of N loss under field conditions.