Five experiments were undertaken to investigate variation in progesterone concentrations as related to the collection and handling of samples of milk and blood, to determine reference values for progesterone and to evaluate clinical findings in relation to progesterone data from pure- and crossbred Zebu cattle reared in the Peruvian tropics. Whole-milk progesterone concentrations obtained from 12 Holstein × Nellore pregnant cows at hourly intervals over a 24-h period were highest immediately after milking; this peak was followed by a sharp drop over the next 3 h. Milk-fat content from 28 Brown Swiss × Nellore pregnant cows increased from 2.4% before milking to 6.7% afterwards (P < 0.05), whereas progesterone concentrations in whole milk increased from 18.4 to 59.5 nmol/1 (P < 0.05). Progesterone concentrations in fat-free milk were stable, with the exception of the fore-milk sample, which was lower than subsequent samples collected during milking (P < 0.05). Blood samples collected from 23 purebred, pregnant Nellore cows, were divided into four aliquots, and plasma and serum were harvested periodically over the next 120 h of storage at +4°C, or in the shade at ambient air temperatures. The results indicate that blood samples can be stored unseparated at both temperatures studied for up to 3 h without severe loss of progesterone. Milk samples collected at different intervals during the luteal phase of the estrous cycle and during early and mid-pregnancy from crossbred cows showed no significant differences in progesterone concentrations between Days 9 to 13 of the cycle and Days 9 to 13 of gestation. Progesterone levels during advanced gestation were higher (P < 0.05). Out of 2,607 clinical examinations, the level of agreement between palpatory findings and progesterone determinations was 95.6 and 81.9% in diagnosing non-luteal and luteal structures, respectively. Significant differences in the level of agreement between palpators were found (P < 0.01). It is concluded that milk samples, preferably composite milk or strippings, must be consistently collected at the same stage of milking, and that centrifugation of blood samples should be done as soon as possible and not later than 3 h after collection. © 1990.