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The objective of this study was to analyse the effect of dystocia on calf viability, milk production, fertility and culling under field (farm) conditions in a retrospective case-control study. A total of 253 calvings that were attended by a veterinarian were classified into three categories: mild dystocia (MD), severe dystocia (SD) and caesarean section (CS). For every case of dystocia, a control was chosen from the same farm and matched for calving month, breed and parity. Cases and controls were compared concerning calf viability, milk production, fertility and culling. The proportion of stillbirths was significantly higher in cows with dystocia compared with their controls. However, the difference was lower in CS cows than in the other two groups. MD had no significant effects on milk production, fertility and culling. There were no obvious effects of SD on monthly test day milk production, while CS cows produced significantly less milk than their controls. Compared with controls, less SD (50.0% versus 61.6%) and CS cows (48.6% versus 70.3%) conceived until 200 days in milk and more CS cows (31.1% versus 16.2%) were culled in the same time interval. These data demonstrate the scope of economic and animal welfare opportunities associated with the reduction of dystocia by management and breeding.