Twenty-one rejected kidneys from 2426 slaughtered dairy cows (0·87 per cent) had gross signs of pyelonephritis that were confirmed by histopathology. In all the kidneys the findings were consistent with a chronic rather than an acute infection. One species of bacteria was cultured from 12 of the kidneys and two species of bacteria were cultured from six. The most commonly isolated bacteria were Escherichia coli, from eight kidneys, Arcanobacterium pyogenes, from seven kidneys and Corynebacterium renale, from five kidneys. The other bacteria cultured were Corynebacterium cystitidis, Corynebacterium species, Streptococcus species group G and Enterococcus faecalis. E coli was cultured from all the kidneys from which two species were isolated; the accompanying bacteria were A pyogenes in three kidneys, C renale in two and C cystitidis in one. No bacteria were cultured from two of the kidneys and no significant bacteria were cultured from another. The kidneys with pyelonephritis were slightly larger than a comparison group of 72 kidneys without nephritis.