For dairy cattle on pasture in temperate regions, it is largely unknown to what degree hot summer conditions impact energy metabolism, milk yield and milk composition and how effective shade is in reducing these negative effects. During the summer of 2012, a herd of Holstein cows was kept on pasture without access to shade (treatment NS). During the summers of 2011 and 2013, the herd was divided into a group with (treatment S) and a group without (treatment NS) access to shade. Shade was provided by young trees combined with shade cloths (80% reduction in solar radiation). A weather station registered the local climatic conditions on open pasture, from which we calculated daily average Heat Load Index (HLI) values. The effects of HLI and shade on rectal temperature (RT), blood plasma indicators of hyperventilation and metabolic changes due to heat stress, milk yield and milk composition were investigated. RT increased with increasing HLI, but was less for S cows than for NS cows (by 0.02°C and 0.03°C increase per unit increase of HLI, respectively). Hyperchloraemia (an increased blood plasma concentration of Cl−), a sign of hyperventilation, increased for NS cows but not for S cows. The plasma concentration of alkaline phosphatase, a regulator of energy metabolism in the liver, decreased with increasing HLI for NS cows only. Access to shade, thus, reduced the effect of HLI on RT, hyperchloraemia and the regulation of metabolism by the liver. As HLI increased, the plasma concentration of cholesterol decreased (indicating increased lipolysis) and the plasma concentration of creatinine increased (indicating increased protein catabolism). These effects did not differ between S and NS cows. For NS cows, after a lag-time of 2 days, the milk yield decreased with increasing HLI. For S cows, the milk yield was unaffected by HLI and its quadratic factor. The milk concentrations of lactose, protein and fat decreased as HLI increased, but only the effect on milk protein content was remediated by shade. In conclusion, access to shade tempered the negative effects of high HLI on RT, hyperchloraemia and a blood plasma indicator of changing energy metabolism (generally) as well as prevented the decrease in milk yield observed in cows without access to shade.