The effect of genetic merit for milk production traits - fat, protein and milk yield - in dairy cows on milk production, body condition, blood metabolites, reproductive hormones, feed intake and reproductive performance was studied over a period of 2 years. Cows were grouped into two categories, based on calculated pedigree indices using multiple-trait across country evaluation (MACE). Cows of high genetic merit (HGM, n = 48 in year 1 and n = 46 in year 2) had a mean predicted difference +/- standard deviation for milk production of 475 +/- 76kg. The cows of medium genetic merit (MGM, n = 48 in both years) had a mean predicted difference for milk production of 140 +/- 68kg. The cows calved between January and April, and were offered grass silage ad libitum plus 9kg concentrates per cow per day, irrespective genetic merit, from calving to turnout in March, when they were subjected to one of three grazing systems. Cows were available for rebreeding from late April until late July of each year.High genetic merit cows had higher milk production, incurred greater body condition loss between calving and first service and had lower plasma glucose and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) concentrations than medium genetic merit cows. Furthermore, HGM cows had lower first and second service and overall conception rates, and required more services per conception than the MGM cows. Cows that did not conceive to first service were retrospectively compared to those that conceived to first service within each genetic merit group. There were no significant differences between the HGM cows that did not conceive to first service and those that conceived to this service in terms of milk production, body condition score change between calving and first service, feed intake at first service, or in plasma concentrations of glucose, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) or IGF-1. Medium genetic merit cows that did not conceive to first service lost more body condition between calving and first service than did those that conceived to this service. In the present study, HGM cows had higher milk production and reduced reproductive performance in comparison with MGM cows. However, reproductive performance was not associated with milk production, feed intake or plasma concentrations of glucose, NEFA or IGF-1 between calving and first service, since there were no significant differences in these variates between high or medium genetic merit cows that did not conceive to first service and those that conceived to this service. Therefore, these variates are unlikely to be useful predictors of reproductive performance, under the conditions of the present study.