The European Union (EU) is a major player on world markets for most dairy products and produces the largest single share of the global market. Dairying is one of the most profitable sectors of EU agriculture. Milk yields per cow have increased steadily in every member state between 1985 and 1997. Overall EU dairy production continues to follow a trend towards increased intensification on a smaller number of larger, more specialised production units. In this paper we highlight the main characteristics of dairy cattle production in the EU, as well as their impact on cow and herd reproductive performances. AI is widely used in areas where there is high input:high output farming and farmers’ primary objective is to have each cow produce a calf every 12 months without any particular calving pattern. The use of embryo technologies is increasing and in some areas (e.g. IVP embryo transfers) Europe leads the world. In most areas of Europe, because of both year round calving and ethical or consumer concerns, hormones are mainly used to treat reproductive diseases and not for pharmaceutical control of breeding.