The fate of cystic ovarian follicles that developed spontaneously during the early postpartum period of 50 lactating dairy cows was traced by ultrasonography to characterise the follicular dynamics in relation to the fertility of the cows. The absence of postpartum ovulations caused by repeated waves of anovulatory large follicles was also characterised and evaluated. Fifteen of the 50 cows developed cystic follicles, and these follicles became follicular cysts in five of the 15 cows. Most of the cystic follicles emerged before the first postpartum ovulation of the cows. The transition from cystic follicles to follicular cysts delayed the cows' first ovulation, oestrus and insemination, but had less influence on their fertility after they had recovered spontaneously. In addition to the 15 cows that developed cystic follicles or follicular cysts, six of the cows had five to 13 waves of follicles before their first ovulation. These repeated waves of follicles caused a more severe delay in the early postpartum reproductive events but did not affect the cows' fertility.