The influence of high altitude, alpine origin of the forage and roughage-only diets on milk protein content and composition, plasmin activity and cheesemaking properties was investigated. There were four treatment groups, each consisting of six dairy cows in early to mid-lactation. Two groups were fed only with hay ad libitum either at 2000 m or at 400 m a.s.l. One group, kept in the lowlands, was pair-fed to the alpine-site group and another group received a mixed diet of silages, hay and concentrates. Two hay types, harvested either at the alpine site or in the lowlands, were offered to all cows fed with hay alone, following a change-over design in three periods each of 3 weeks. In the respective third week, milk was sampled at every milking. Hay of alpine origin significantly reduced milk protein, in particular whey proteins, which is why the casein number increased. κ-Casein proportion in total casein was reduced and its glycosylation was increased by the alpine hay. The apparent plasminogen-derived activity was reduced when alpine hay was given, but apparent plasmin activity and rennet coagulation properties of the milk were not affected by hay type. Independent of hay type, the high altitude group showed a significantly reduced milk protein content, lower glycosylation of κ-casein and impaired rennet coagulation properties. For several of the traits, the trend was the same in the pair-fed group. There was no effect of altitude on apparent plasmin activity. Hay-alone v. the mixed diet resulted initially in marked declines in milk protein content but did not impair cheesemaking properties. Thus the extensive diet without concentrates, typical of high-alpine conditions, contributed less to the overall effect of extensive alpine v. intensive lowland feeding systems than hay quality and altitude did. In conclusion, certain positive influences of the alpine sojourn of cows on cheese processing quality are overruled by the major adverse impact of lower milk protein content.