The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare feed intake, milk production, milk composition and organic matter (OM) digestibility in dairy cows fed different grass and legume species. Data from the literature was collected and different data sets were made to compare families (grasses v. legumes, Data set 1), different legume species and grass family (Data set 2), and different grass and legume species (Data set 3+4). The first three data sets included diets where single species or family were fed as the sole forage, whereas the approach in the last data set differed by taking the proportion of single species in the forage part into account allowing diets consisting of both grasses and legumes to be included. The grass species included were perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass, orchardgrass, timothy, meadow fescue, tall fescue and festulolium, and the legume species included were white clover, red clover, lucerne and birdsfoot trefoil. Overall, dry matter intake (DMI) and milk production were 1.3 and 1.6 kg/day higher, respectively, whereas milk protein and milk fat concentration were 0.5 and 1.4 g/kg lower, respectively, for legume-based diets compared with grass-based diets. When comparing individual legume species with grasses, only red clover resulted in a lower milk protein concentration than grasses. Cows fed white clover and birdsfoot trefoil yielded more milk than cows fed red clover and lucerne, probably caused by a higher OM digestibility of white clover and activity of condensed tannins in birdsfoot trefoil. None of the included grass species differed in DMI, milk production, milk composition or OM digestibility, indicating that different grass species have the same value for milk production, if OM digestibility is comparable. However, the comparison of different grass species relied on few observations, indicating that knowledge regarding feed intake and milk production potential of different grass species is scarce in the literature. In conclusion, different species within family similar in OM digestibility resulted in comparable DMI and milk production, but legumes increased both DMI and milk yield compared with grasses.