The silvopastoral system (SPS) has been suggested to ensure sustainability in animal production systems in tropical ecosystems. The objective of this study was to evaluate pasture characteristics, herbage intake, grazing activity and milk yield of Holstein×Zebu cows managed in two grazing systems (treatments): SPS dominated by a graminaceous forage (Brachiaria decumbens) intercropped with different leguminous herbaceous forages (Stylosanthes spp., Pueraria phaseoloides and Calopogonium mucunoides) and legume trees (Acacia mangium, Gliricidia sepium and Leucaena leucocephala), and open pasture (OP) of B. decumbens intercropped only with Stylosanthes spp. Pastures were managed according to the rules for organic cattle production. The study was carried out by following a switch back format with 12 cows, 6 for each treatment, over 3 experimental years. Herbage mass was similar (P>0.05) for both treatments, supporting an average stocking rate of 1.23 AU/ha. Daily dry matter intake did not vary (P>0.05) between treatments (average of 11.3±1.02 kg/cow per day, corresponding to 2.23±0.2% BW). Milk yield was higher (P<0.05; 10.4±0.06 kg/cow per day) in the SPS than in the OP (9.5±0.06 kg/cow per day) during the 1st year, but did not significantly differ (P>0.05) in subsequent years. The highest (P<0.05) values for herbage mass and milk yield were observed during the 3rd year. In the SPS, with moderate shade (19% shade relative to a full-sun condition), the grass CP was higher (P<0.05) than in the OP, although the NDF content and digestibility coefficient were not modified. The animals spent more time (P<0.05) idling in the SPS than in OP. The higher legume proportion in the SPS was associated with the higher CP level in B. decumbens relative to the OP, which could explain the better (P<0.05) performance of the cows in silvopastoral areas during the 1st year. However, during the 2nd and 3rd years, similarities in the legume percentages of both systems resulted in similar (P>0.05) milk yields. Low persistence of Stylosanthes guianensis was observed over the experimental period, indicating that the persistence of forage legumes under grazing could be improved using adapted cultivars that have higher annual seed production. The SPS and a diversified botanical composition of the pasture using legume species mixed with grasses are recommended for organic milk production.