A single injection of a synthetic analogue of prostaglandin F2 alpha (fenprostalene; Syntex) on the day of calving or between days 14 and 21 after calving did not affect the calving to first service interval, the number of services per conception or the conception rate of dairy cows. In a second trial, cows calved more than 45 days were injected once weekly with prostaglandin F2 alpha (dinoprost; Upjohn) or fenprostalene until served at the first detected oestrus. The calving to first service interval and the conception rate were not affected. Following injection of either prostaglandin, the spread in the pattern of onset of oestrus and the range in the proportion of cows (75 to 98 per cent) seen in oestrus within seven days were similar. This variation in the time of onset of oestrus after the administration of prostaglandin precludes limiting oestrus detection to four or five days per week, and is a major limitation to the use of prostaglandins in breeding programmes in dairy cows.