Nutrient balance affects the resumption of ovarian cyclic activity following calving in dairy cattle. However, few data are available about the relationships between nutrient balance and expression of oestrus or conception.It was hypothesised that previously anoestrous cows that conceived to first insemination and cows that expressed oestrus at the subsequent expected return to oestrus would be less likely to be in negative energy balance (i.e. would have higher body condition score, higher glucose, insulin-like growth factor (IGF), leptin or insulin concentrations, and lower non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), beta hydroxy butyrate (BOH) concentrations 12-15 days after insemination) than herd mates not conceiving or expressing oestrus. Anoestrous cows were treated with progesterone and oestradiol benzoate (Day 0 = end of treatment period) and retrospectively categorised as conceiving (n = 108) or not conceiving (n = 108) to insemination. A subset of cows not conceiving to insemination were categorised as expressing (n = 44) or not expressing (n = 44) oestrus between Days 14 and 28 after initial insemination. Cows conceiving had a lower NEFA concentration (P = 0.014) than non-conceiving cows. Cows subsequently detected in oestrus had higher body condition scores (P = 0.016), lGF concentrations (P = 0.008) and milk protein percentages (P = 0.038), and lower BOH concentrations (P = 0.018) than cows not expressing oestrus. No difference in concentrations of leptin, insulin, glucose, blood urea nitrogen or milk yield were found between cows conceiving or not conceiving and those detected in oestrus or not detected in oestrus (P > 0.1).It is concluded that some measures of metabolic status at the time of pregnancy recognition affects the probability of pregnancy and of subsequent expression of oestrus in those treated, anoestrous cows not conceiving. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.