The efficiency of bovine in vitro embryo production has remained low despite extensive effort to understand the effects of culture conditions, media composition and supplementation. As bovine oocytes resume meiosis spontaneously when cultured, it was hypothesized that preventing meiosis in vitro before in vitro maturation (IVM) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) would allow more oocytes to acquire developmental competence. This article reviews some of the factors involved in meiotic arrest as well as the effects of meiotic inhibition before IVM on bovine oocytes developmental competence following IVF. Follicular components and cAMP-elevating agents can delay or inhibit meiosis in various proportions of oocytes; however, few studies have examined their effects on development following IVM and IVF because they are not practical (follicular components) or have a transient effect on meiosis (cAMP-elevating agents). Protein synthesis or phosphorylation inhibition prevented meiosis in high percentages of oocytes; however, these non-specific inhibitions led to lower developmental competence compared with non-arrested oocytes. Maturation promoting factor (MPF) inhibition with specific inhibitors has been examined in several studies. Despite faster maturation following removal from inhibition and some structural damage to the oocytes, MPF inhibition generally led to blastocyst rates similar to control, non-arrested oocytes. Future work will involve evaluating the effects on arrested oocytes of molecules that can improve developmental competence in non-arrested oocytes. It is also anticipated that new IVM systems that take into consideration new knowledge of the mechanisms involved in the control of meiosis will be developed. Moreover, global gene expression analysis studies will also provide clues to the culture conditions required for optimal expression of developmental competence.