Abstract Objectives of the study were to evaluate the effect of planting date on in vitro neutral detergent fiber digestibility (IVFD) of whole-crop barley (Hordeum vulgare) and its effects on productivity of lactating dairy cows. Two cultivars of barley were planted on May 5 (BM) and June 7 (BJ), 2005 at the Edmonton Research Station, University of Alberta. They were harvested at late-dough stage on July 26 and August 25, respectively, for BM and BJ and ensiled. The BJ had greater 30-h IVFD (61.2 vs. 51.9%) and crude protein concentration (12.4 vs. 8.7%) at harvest compared with BM. Thirty lactating cows, including 6 ruminally cannulated cows, in mid to late lactation (183±71.7 d in milk; mean±standard deviation) were fed diets containing BM or BJ at 58.5% of dietary DM in a crossover design with 19-d periods. The dietary neutral detergent fiber concentration was 30.6 and 28.8% for BM and BJ diets, respectively. Dry matter intake and milk yield were not affected by treatment and averaged 20.2 and 27.2 kg/ d, respectively. The lack of responses could have been attributed to the low-energy demands for cows used in this experiment; ruminal physical fill might not have limited dry matter intake. However, cows fed BJ had greater total tract dry matter digestibility (68.9 vs. 66.1%) and tended to increase body weight gain (864 vs. 504 g/d) compared with those fed BM. Delaying the planting date of barley altered its growing environment and affected nutrient composition and IVFD of whole-crop barley and energy availability to animals. Further research is needed to confirm if the planting date consistently affects nutrient composition and IVFD of barley at harvest.