The objective was to study milk production, body reserve mobilization, metabolic and hormonal profiles, and ovarian cyclicity of Holstein-Friesian (HOLS) and Montbéliarde (MONT) cows under two low-input dairy production systems with seasonal spring calving: an extensive (EXT; 12 HOLS and 12 MONT) based on permanent diversified grasslands and zero concentrate, and a semi-extensive (SEMI; 12 HOLS and 10 MONT) based on established temporary grasslands and up to 4 kg/day of concentrate. Individual measurements were performed between −4 and 12 weeks of lactation. Cows in EXT secreted less milk (22.1 v. 24.4 kg/day), protein (660 v. 755 g/day) and energy (67.7 v. 74.4 MJ/day), had greater plasma β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) (0.97 v. 0.69 mM), lower glucose (59.0 v. 62.0 mg/dl) and IGF-1 (62 v. 71 ng/ml), lower milk fat concentration in fatty acids originating from de novo synthesis (e.g. ∑ 10:0 to 15:0) and greater concentration of those derived in part from mobilization of fat reserves (e.g. 18:0 and ∑>C16), and showed greater frequency of abnormal ovarian cycles compared with SEMI. Across production systems, HOLS produced more milk (24.7 v. 21.8 kg/day), protein (738 v. 674 g/day) and fat (939 v. 819 g/day), secreted more energy (75.1 v. 67.0 MJ/day), lost more body condition score (BCS) (1.41 v. 1.03) and reached a lower BCS nadir (1.12 v. 1.43), had greater plasma BHBA (0.91 v. 0.75 mM), lower insulin (15.9 v. 17.2 µIU/ml) and tended to have lower glucose (59.6 v. 61.4 mg/dl), had lower milk fat concentration in ∑ 10:0 to 15:0, tended to have higher ∑>C16 and tended to show more abnormal estrous cycles compared with MONT. Ultrasound measurements did not differentiate fat mobilization and were confounded by breed differences of skin thickness. The greater nutrient allowance in SEMI improved indicators of physiological status and ovarian function during early lactation compared with EXT, but did not attenuate body reserve mobilization because cows prioritized milk secretion. HOLS secreted more nutrients than MONT but lost more BCS, which negatively affected nutritional balance and tended to affect ovarian cyclicity during early lactation. Breed by system interactions were not observed except for a few variables.