The aim of this study was to determine the optimal maturation culture period of ovum pick up (OPU)-derived cumulus oocytes complexes (COCs) in relation to their developmental capacity. Embryo production, embryo cryotolerance, post-transfer embryonic survival and calf characteristics such as gestation length, birthweight and sex ratio were investigated. This retrospective study covers the analyses of ovum pick up -in vitro production and calving results from a commercial programme that took place between March 1994 and September 2004. Donors were both heifers (of which approximately 90% pregnant) and cows (of which approximately 10% pregnant). Embryo production analyses were based on 7800 OPU sessions conducted from January 1995 until January 1999. Analyses of calving rate were based on 13 468 embryo transfers performed during January 1995 until May 2002. Analyses on calf characteristics were based on 2162 calves born between March 1994 and September 2004. The in vitro maturation culture period ranged from 16 to 28 h. The mean production rate of transferable embryos was 16.5% (1.2 embryos per OPU session). Length of maturation culture period did not affect the production of transferable embryos. Mean calving rate was 40.9% and 38.7% for fresh and frozen/thawed embryos, respectively. Calving rate was not affected by the maturation culture period. Mean birthweight, gestation length and proportion of male calves were 46 kg, 281.9 days and 52.8%, respectively. Maturation culture period did not affect these variables. In conclusion, this study shows that the in vitro maturation culture period within the range of 16-28 h does not affect in vitro embryo production, embryo cryotolerance, post-transfer embryonic survival and calf characteristics, suggesting that all COC batches collected by OPU on the same day, can be fertilized in one IVF session without a significant loss in the production from oocyte to calf.