The resumption of ovarian activity after normal calvings was studied in 18 lactating Friesian cows. Since, in 17 cows, first post-partum ovulation occurred without overt oestrous behaviour being detected, the resultant cycles were called 'ovarian cycles'. The mean (+/- s.d.) length of the ovarian cycles was 21.0 +/- 8.7 days. The duration of cycles tended to be normal (18-24 days) or long (greater than or equal to 25 days) when the ovulatory dominant follicles were identified before Day 10 post partum; they were consistently short (9-13 days) when dominant follicles identified after Day 20 post partum ovulated. When such follicles were detected between Days 10 and 20 post partum, long, normal and short ovarian cycles were detected. The number of waves of follicular growth with associated dominant follicles observed during the ovarian cycles tended to be related to cycle length; short cycles had 1 dominant follicle, normal cycles predominantly 2, and long cycles mostly 3 dominant follicles. The mean (+/- s.d.) duration of 13 oestrous cycles studied was 23.1 +/- 2.1 days. Of these cycles, 7 had 3 and 6 had 2 dominant follicles. The oestrous cycles with 3 dominant follicles had a mean (+/- s.d.) duration of 24.0 +/- 1.2 days and the respective dominant non-ovulatory follicles reached maximum sizes on Days 8 and 18, respectively; oestrous cycles with 2 dominant follicles were 22.2 +/- 2.6 days in duration, and the dominant non-ovulatory follicle reached maximum size by Day 8. Ovarian follicular development during the first 45 days of pregnancy was characterized by the growth and regression of successive dominant follicles, each lasting 10-12 days. These results show that the first ovarian cycle was predominantly short when the ovulatory dominant follicle was first detected after Day 20 post partum.
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