Contents This study analyses anomalous cases of gestation ending in pregnancy loss during the early foetal period and their effect on progesterone and plasma pregnancy-associated glycoprotein-1 (PAG-1) concentrations. Data derived from a large-scale ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis programme in high producing dairy cows. Over a 3-year period (2004-2007), a very low incidence (0.5%: 15 of 3094) of anomalous pregnancies was recorded. The results revealed that the following anomalies were detected on days 35-41 of gestation in cows carrying singletons with one single corpus luteum: embryo death in eight cows (0.3%); and embryo in the uterine horn contralateral to the corpus luteum in seven cows (0.2%). All these animals suffered pregnancy loss during the early foetal period. In cows carrying dead embryos, no signs of conceptus degeneration were observed on pregnancy diagnosis. Amnion size (approximately 25 mm diameter) and uterine horn fluid contents were estimated to be similar to those of the normal pregnant cows in this period. In the contralateral gestations, live embryos were observed in all ultrasound checks before pregnancy loss. Uterine fluid contents increased in the two cows in which gestation continued for more than a week. In the cases of embryo death but not in those of contralateral gestation, a drop in PAG-1 levels was noted prior to pregnancy loss. Two cows carrying dead embryos increased with time allantoic fluid contents. The PAG-1 values increased with time in one cow bearing a dead embryo (from 2.31 to 6.79 ng/ml) and in two of the contralateral gestations (from 1.66 to 2.33 ng/ml and from 0.39 to 6.79 ng/ml, respectively). Results of this study indicate that the foetal membranes continue to undergo some activity following embryo death, and that contralateral pregnancy may determine failure of the gestation process. © 2008 Blackwell Verlag.