The reported effects of feeding on growth hormone (GH) secretion in ruminants have been inconsistent, and are likely influenced by energy status of animals. High-producing dairy cows in early lactation and late lactation were used to assess the effects of energy balance on temporal variation of plasma metabolites and hormones. Cows were fed a single diet once daily, and feed was withdrawn for 90 min prior to feeding. Beginning at the time of feed withdrawal, plasma samples were collected via jugular catheters hourly for 24h. Concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids and GH were measured for all samples, while insulin, glucose, and acylated (active) ghrelin were quantified for four sample times around feeding. As expected, calculated energy balance was significantly lower in early lactation than late lactation cows (-43.5 MJ retained/day versus 7.2 MJ retained/day). Following the primary meal of the day, a GH surge was observed in early lactation but not in late lactation cows. This difference was not explained by temporal patterns in non-esterified fatty acid, insulin, or glucose concentrations. However, a preprandial ghrelin surge was observed in early lactation only, suggesting that ghrelin was responsible for the prandial GH surge in this group. Results of a stepwise regression statistical analysis showed that both preprandial ghrelin concentration and energy balance were significant predictors of prandial GH increase over baseline. Adaptations to negative energy balance in lactating dairy cattle likely include enhanced ghrelin secretion and greater GH response to ghrelin.