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Synchronization of oestrus and/or ovulation can reduce workload in heifer reproductive management. The objective of this study was to compare two protocols to synchronize oestrus and/or ovulation using GnRH and prostaglandin F(2alpha) (PGF(2alpha)) in dairy heifers concerning their effect on follicular dynamics and reproductive performance. Four trials were carried out. In trial 1, 282 heifers were treated with GnRH and PGF(2alpha) 7 days apart (GP protocol). One group was inseminated on detection of oestrus (IDO 1), and the other group received two timed artificial inseminations (AI) 48 and 72 h after PGF(2alpha) administration (TAI 1). In trial 2, 98 heifers were synchronized with the same GP protocol. Heifers in IDO 2 were treated as in IDO 1, heifers in TAI 2 received two TAI 48 and 78 h after PGF(2alpha) administration. In trial 3, heifers in IDO 3 (n = 71) were again treated as in IDO 1. Heifers in TAI 3 (n = 166) received a second dose of GnRH 48 h after PGF(2alpha) (GPG protocol) and TAI together with this treatment and 24 h later. Trial 4 compared the timing of ovulation after the GP and the GPG protocol, using a subgroup of the heifers from trials 1 to 3. The ovaries of the heifers were scanned via ultrasound at 48, 56, 72, 80, 96 and 104 h after PGF(2alpha) administration. Timing of ovulation and size of the ovulatory follicles were compared between the two groups. In trials 1 to 3, conception rates to first service were between 49 and 66%. They did not differ significantly between IDO and TAI groups within or between trials. Pregnancy rates per synchronization were numerically higher in the TAI groups, but the difference was not significant. Conception rates to breeding on spontaneous oestrus in heifers returning to oestrus were higher than that after synchronized oestrus. In trial 4, more heifers ovulated before the end of the observation period in GPG than in GP (96.5% vs 74.7%; p < 0.001). Overall, ovulatory follicles were smaller in GPG (13.1 +/- 1.9 mm vs 14.3 +/- 1.9 mm; p < 0.001).