The objectives of the present in vivo and in situ trials were to evaluate whether feeding barley grain steeped in lactic acid (LA) would affect rumen fermentation patterns, in situ dry matter (DM) degradation kinetics, and milk production and composition in lactating dairy cows. The in vivo trial involved 8 rumen-fistulated Holstein cows fed once daily a total mixed ration containing rolled barley grain (27% in DM) steeped for 48 h in an equal quantity of tap water (CTR) or in 0.5% LA (TRT) in a 2 x 2 crossover design. The in situ trials consisted of incubation of untreated rolled barley grain in cows fed CTR or TRT diets and of incubation of 3 different substrates including CTR or barley grain steeped in 0.5% or 1.0% LA (TRT1 and TRT2, respectively) up to 72 h in the rumen. Results of the in vivo trial indicated that cows fed the TRT diet had greater rumen pH during most intensive fermentation phases at 10 and 12 h post-feeding. The latter effect was associated with a shorter duration in which rumen pH was below 5.8 for cows fed the TRT diet (2.4 h) compared with CTR diet (3.9 h). Furthermore, cows fed the TRT diet had lower concentrations of volatile fatty acids at 2 and 4 h post-feeding. In addition, concentrations of preprandial volatile fatty acids were lower in the rumen fluid of cows fed the TRT diet. Results also showed that molar proportion of acetate was lower, whereas propionate tended to increase by feeding cows the TRT diet. Cows fed the TRT diet demonstrated greater rumen in situ lag time of substrate DM degradation and a tendency to lower the fractional degradation rate. Other in situ results indicated a quadratic effect of LA on the effective rumen degradability of substrates whereby the latter variable was decreased from CTR to TRT1 but increased for TRT2 substrate. Although the diet did not affect actual milk yield, fat-corrected milk, percentages of milk protein, and lactose and concentration of milk urea nitrogen, cows fed the TRT diet increased milk fat content and tended to increase fat:protein ratio in the milk. In conclusion, results demonstrated that treatment of barley grain with LA lowered the risk of subacute rumen acidosis and maintained high milk fat content in late-lactating Holstein cows fed diets based on barley grain.