Grazing in small-scale dairy systems reduces costs and enhances sustainability. However, binary pastures (BP) have low persistency, which may be increased by including more species given their flexibility to withstand different agroecological and management situations. The objective was to assess a multi-species (MS) pasture of perennial ryegrass (RG), tall fescue (TF), bromegrass (BG), red clover (RC) and white clover (WC) in comparison to a BP of perennial ryegrass (RG) – WC grazed by six Holstein dairy cows during the dry season in an on-farm double cross-over experiment, with three 14-day each experimental periods for animal variables, and a split-plot design for pasture variables at 3 cow/ha. There were differences (P < 0.05) between pastures for sward height (MS 5.0 vs. BP 4.0 ± 0.10 cm, both MS and BP) and net herbage accumulation (MS 902 vs BP 228 ± 172.4 kg DM/ha, both MS and BP) and differences (P < 0.05) for chemical composition among periods. There were differences (P < 0.01) among periods for estimated DM intake, but no differences (P > 0.05) for milk yield (mean 16.8 kg/cow/day), milk fat or protein content (mean 31.8 and 28.8 g/kg). Multi-species pastures are a viable alternative for SSDS in the highlands of central Mexico, being more resistant to harsh environment and to weed and kikuyu grass invasion.