This study investigated the effects of, and interactions between, dietary grain source and marginal changes in alfalfa hay (AH) particle size (PS) on digestive processes of dairy cows. A total of eight Holstein dairy cows (175 days in milk) were allocated in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design with four 21-day periods. The experiment was a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement with two levels of theoretical PS of AH (fine = 15 mm or long = 30 mm) each combined with two different sources of cereal grains (barley grain alone or barley plus corn grain in a 50 : 50 ratio). Results showed that cows consuming diets supplemented with corn had greater dry matter and nutrient intakes (P < 0.01), independent of forage PS. In addition, the apparent digestibility of fiber fractions was greater for diets supplemented with corn (P = 0.01). The feeding of barley grain-based diets was associated with greater apparent digestibility of non-fiber carbohydrates, and this variable was even greater when long AH was fed (P = 0.04). Moreover, the feeding of long AH resulted in longer time spent eating (P = 0.03) and higher pH (P < 0.01), as well as a tendency for higher acetate-to-propionate ratio in the rumen fluid (P = 0.06) at 3 h post feeding. In conclusion, the results indicated that the marginal increase of PS of AH may prolong eating time and improve rumen fermentation, particularly in diets based on barley grain. Partial substitution of barley grain by corn can improve feed intake and fiber digestibility in mid-lactation dairy cows.