Seasonal effects on luteal activity during post partum were evaluated in two consecutive studies in 253 dairy cows in Northern Italy. In study 1, plasma progesterone concentrations were determined on days 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and 56 post partum and in study 2 cows were synchronized and inseminated at a fixed time using two regimes based on the ‘Ovsynch’ protocol. Study 1: Animals were classified as luteal (progesterone >1.5 ng/ml in at least two consecutive samples) or non-luteal (progesterone <1.5 ng/ml in all samples). The proportion of cows without luteal activity from calving to day 56 post partum was 47/253 (18.5%). Of the 47 cows without luteal activity, 42 (89%) were detected during the warm months of the year and five were detected during the cold months of the year, and the effect of season was highly significant (P < 0.001). Study 2: Three study groups were established; control (CONT, untreated cows, n = 92), GPG (cows receiving gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) on day 0, PGF2α on day 7 followed by a second dose of GnRH 24 h later, n = 80); and HPH (the same as the GPG group, but with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) substituted for GnRH, n = 81). In the GPG and HPH groups, cows were inseminated 16 to 22 h after the second GnRH or hCG injection. Untreated cows were inseminated at first estrus after a voluntary weaning period. Because the effects of the GPG and HPH regimes on pregnancy rate were not significantly different, data were pooled into a single treatment group (TREAT). Pregnancy rates during the warm months of the year were 16% and 15% at first service and 65% and 66% at day 135 post partum for CONT and TREAT groups, respectively. Pregnancy rates during the cold months of the year were 36% and 38% at first service and 72% and 76% at day 135 post partum for CONT and TREAT groups, respectively. There was an effect of season (P < 0.05) but not of treatment on pregnancy rate. Treatment reduced the number of days from calving to conception during both the cold (101 ± 3.2 v. 121 ± 3.1 days; P < 0.001) and warm seasons (122 ± 3.2 v. 145 ± 3.1 days; P < 0.001). In conclusion, the present study shows that (i) heat stress during the warm season can compromise luteal activity and (ii) that regimes based on the Ovsynch protocol did not improve pregnancy rate at first service or by 135 post partum, but they had a positive effect on the calving-to-conception interval.