Forages rich in water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) might be an ideal energy source during early lactation, as they provide both energy for milk production and structural fibre to promote chewing and rumen buffering. Thus, the aim was to investigate feeding strategies based on high-quality hay rich in WSC with graded amounts of concentrate on ruminating behaviour, ruminal pH and systemic health variables. Twenty-four Simmental cows were randomly allocated to four groups beginning 10 days before until 28 days after calving. Diets were 60LQH (60% fibre-rich hay plus 40% concentrate), 60HQH, 75HQH and 100HQH (60%, 75% and 100% high-quality hay, plus 40%, 25% and 0% concentrate, respectively). Hay qualities differed in contents of WSC (110 g vs. 198 g of dry matter [DM]), neutral detergent fibre (646 g vs. 423 g of DM) and crude protein (65 g vs. 223 g of DM). Rumination was recorded using the Rumiwatch system over 4 days during the last week. Weekly serum samples were analysed for the liver enzymes aspartate aminotransferase, glutamate dehydrogenase and γ-glutamyltransferase and the acute phase proteins serum amyloid A and haptoglobin. Four cows per group received a wireless pH sensor orally placed into the rumen one week before the expected calving date. Daily time spent chewing did not differ between groups. Likewise differences in minimum, maximum and mean pH-values were not significant, but daily time of reticular pH <6 was longer in cows fed 60LQH compared to cows fed 100HQH (p = 0.043) and in tendency to cows fed 75HQH or 60HQH (p = 0.072 or p = 0.086, respectively). Blood parameters were unaffected by diet. Accordingly the present results demonstrate that feeding hay rich in WSC helped stabilizing the reticuloruminal pH in early lactation dairy cows, even in combination with 40% concentrates in DM.