Reproductive performance has decreased over the last decades in many dairy systems. This study aimed at comparing the effects of a high- and a low-feeding level on reproductive stages (cyclicity, oestrus and fertility) of Holstein and Normande cows in a grass-based winter compact calving system. High-fed cows received a total mixed ration composed of 55% maize silage, 15% dehydrated alfalfa pellets and 30% concentrate in winter and 4 kg/day concentrate supply at grazing. Low-fed cows only received 50% grass silage and 50% haylage in winter and no concentrate at grazing. Low-fed cows produced less milk over 44 weeks, but lost more body condition (BC) than high-fed ones (5207 v. 7457 kg, −1.28 v. −0.96 unit, P < 0.001). Normande cows produced less milk and lost less BC than Holstein ones (5596 v. 7068 kg, −0.89 v. −1.36 unit, P < 0.001). Post-partum ovarian activity was little affected by the feeding level. In both breeds, ovulation detection rate was higher in low-fed cows (74% v. 59%, P < 0.001) and detection relied more frequently on standing behaviour (67% v. 55%, P = 0.022). In both breeds, the recalving rate following the first and second inseminations was not significantly affected by the feeding level, although more non-fertilisations or early embryo mortalities occurred in low-fed cows (43% v. 26%, P = 0.004). For the Holstein breed, this was clearly explained by more late embryo mortalities in high-fed cows (30% v. 9%, P = 0.004). Finally, pregnancy rate by the end of the 13-week breeding period was similar between feeding groups. Conversely, the Normande dual-purpose cows had a higher pregnancy rate by the end of the breeding period than the Holstein dairy cows (72% v. 54%, P = 0.007), owing to a better ovarian activity (79% v. 54% normal, P < 0.001) and a higher recalving rate following insemination (53% v. 37%, P = 0.007). In conclusion, this study demonstrates that feeding levels with converse effects on milk yield and BC score also have converse effects on reproductive stages and lead to quite similar final reproductive performance in compact calving systems. Normande cows benefit from an overall better reproductive performance, but do not suit high feeding levels for very compact calving systems owing to depressed oestrous behaviour.