The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of presynchronization with or without the detection of estrus on first service pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI) and on Ovsynch outcome in lactating dairy cows. A total of 511 cows were divided randomly but unevenly into 3 treatment groups at 44 to 50 days in milk (DIM). Ovsynch was started at the same time (69 to 75 DIM) in all three groups. Cows in the Ovsynch group (CON, N = 126) received no presynchronization before Ovsynch, and all cows were bred by timed AT (TAI). Cows in the presynchronization with estrus detection (PED) and the presynchronization with only TAI (PTAI) groups received two doses of prostaglandin F-2 alpha (PGF) 14 days apart, starting at 44 to 50 DIM. Ovsynch was initiated 11 days after the second PGF treatment. Cows in the PED group (N = 267) received AI if estrus was detected after either PGF injection. Cows that were not determined to be in estrus after PGF injection received Ovsynch and TAI. Cows in the PTAI group (N = 118) were not inseminated to estrus, with all cows receiving TAI after Ovsynch. The ovulatory response to the first GnRH injection administered as part of Ovsynch differed (P = 0.002) among treatment groups (83.1% in PTAI, 72.6% in PED, and 62.7% in CON). However, the ovulatory response to the second injection of GnRH during Ovsynch did not differ among treatment groups. Of the 267 PED cows, a total of 132 (49.4%) exhibited estrus and were inseminated. The P/AI at the 31-day pregnancy diagnosis was similar between the cows in the PED group with AI after estrus detection (37.9%; 50/132) and those bred with TAI (34.1%; 46/135). The P/AI in the CON group (46.8%; 59/126) was greater (P < 0.05) than that in the PED group (36.0%; 96/267). In addition, the P/AI in the CON group was greater (P = 0.04) than that in the PED cows receiving TAI (34.1%; 46/135) but less than that in the PED cows bred to estrus (37.9%; 50/132) (P = 0.16). At the 31-day pregnancy diagnosis, the cows in the PTAI group had greater P/AI (55.9%; 66/118) than both those in the PED group (P < 0.01; either estrus or TAI) and those in the CON group (P = 0.08). Thus, presynchronization with PGF (PTAI) increased the ovulatory response to Ovsynch and improved P/AI in dairy cows. Interestingly, the breeding of cows to estrus during presynchronization reduced fertility to the TAI and overall fertility, including cows bred to estrus and TAI. These results indicate that maximal fertility is obtained when all cows receive TAI after the presynchronization protocol. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.