Hypophosphataemia is frequently encountered in dairy cows during early lactation. Although supplementation of P is generally recommended, controversy exists over the suitability of oral P supplementation in animals with decreased or absent rumen motility. Since the effects of transruminal P absorption and the reticular groove reflex on the absorption kinetics of P are not well understood, it is unclear in how far treatment efficacy of oral P supplementation is affected by decreased rumen motility. Phosphate absorption was studied in six phosphate-depleted dairy cows fitted with rumen cannulas and treated with test solutions containing either NaH2PO4 or CaHPO4 with acetaminophen. Each animal was treated orally, intraruminally and intra-abomasally in randomised order. Absorption kinetics of P were studied and compared with the absorption kinetics of acetaminophen, a marker substance only absorbed from the small intestine. Intra-abomasal treatment with NaH2PO4 resulted in the most rapid and highest peaks in plasma inorganic P (Pi) concentration. Oral and intraruminal administration of NaH2PO4 resulted in similar increases in plasma Pi concentration from 4 to 7 h in both groups. Treatment with NaH2PO4 caused more pronounced peaks in plasma Pi concentration compared with CaHPO4. Neither transruminal P absorption nor the reticular groove reflex affected P absorption kinetics as determined by comparing plasma concentration–time curves of P and acetaminophen after administration of 1M-phosphate salt solutions. It is concluded that oral treatment with NaH2PO4 but not CaHPO4 is effective in supplementing P in hypophosphataemic cows with adequate rumen motility. Decreased rumen motility is likely to hamper the efficacy of oral phosphate treatment.