Two experiments were conducted to examine the ‘long-term’ effect of feed space allowance and period of access to feed on dairy cow performance. In Experiment 1, three horizontal feed space allowances (20, 40 and 60 cm cow−1) were examined over a 127-d period (14 cows per treatment). In Experiment 2, 48 dairy cows were used in a continuous design (10-week duration) 2 × 2 factorial design experiment comprising two horizontal feed space allowances (15 and 40 cm cow−1), and two periods of access to feed (unrestricted and restricted). With the former, uneaten feed was removed at 08·00 h, while feeding took place at 09·00 h. With the latter, uneaten feed was removed at 06·00 h, while feeding was delayed until 12·00 h. Mean total dry-matter (DM) intakes were 19·0, 18·7 and 19·3 kg cow−1 d−1 with the 20, 40 and 60 cm cow−1 treatments in Experiment 1, and 18·1 and 18·2 kg cow−1 d−1 with the ‘restricted feeding time’ treatments, and 17·8 and 18·1 kg d−1 with the ‘unrestricted feeding time’ treatments (15 and 40 cm respectively) in Experiment 2. None of milk yield, milk composition, or end-of-study live weight or condition score were significantly affected by treatment in either experiment (P > 0·05), while fat + protein yield was reduced with the 15-cm treatment in Experiment 2 (P < 0·05). When access to feed was restricted by space or time constraints, cows modified their time budgets and increased their rates of intake.