The objective was to determine the effect of age and dietary protein content on post-partum oestrous and ovarian cyclicity in autumn-lambing ewes. Twenty-four multiparous (age 4·5 (s.e. 0·61) years) and 24 primiparous (age 1·5 years) ewes which lambed on 28 October (s.e. 0·2) and were rearing 2·0 and. 1·7 (s.e. 0·13) lambs, respectively, were equally allocated to two dietary treatments in a 2 × 2 factorial design. Diets comprised a d libitum hay supplemented with concentrate (12·5 MJ metabolizable energy per kg dry matter (DM) and either 210 or 140 g crude protein per kg DM), offered at a daily allowance of 1·2 kg per ewe from lambing to weaning (18 December) and 0·4 kg per ewe thereafter. Throughout the study (3 November to 24 May) ewes were group-housed in straw-bedded pens under natural photoperiod at 57°N and their live weights and body condition scores were assessed at 2-week intervals. A raddled vasectomized ram was continually present with each group and ewes marked by the ram were recorded thrice weekly. Blood samples were obtained thrice weekly for measurement of peripheral progesterone concentrations and ovulation rate was determined by laparoscopy during January and March. There was no significant effect of dietary protein content on any of the variables measured. For multiparous and primiparous ewes, mean live weights and body condition scores at lambing were 79·5 (s.e. 1·41) v. 58·4 (s.e. 1·54) kg (P < 0·001) and 2·5 (s.e. 0·05) v. 2·2 (s.e. 0·05) (P < 0·001) and daily live-weight losses over the suckling period were 153 (s.e. 19·3) v. 85 (s.e. 21·1) glday (P < 0·05). Intervals from parturition to first overt oestrus were 39 (s.e. 3·2) v. 33 (s.e. 2·3) days and to the onset of ovarian cyclicity were 29 (s.e. 4·9) v. 25 (s.e. 1·5) days. Durations of ovarian cyclicity were 133 (s.e. 27·1) and 110 (s.e. 5·7) days (P < 0·01) during which 7·6 (s.e. 0·32) and 6·5 (s.e. 0·34) (P < 0·05) ovarian cycles were recorded respectively. Fifteen ewes had initial short cycles (≤10 days), six had prolonged cycles (≥21 days) and 11 had extended inter-luteal phase intervals (≥8 days). All ewes had recent ovulations at the January laparoscopy but only 19 multiparous and nine primiparous ewes had ovulations in March. Mean ovulation rates were: January 2·2 (s.e. 0·14) and 1·4 (s.e. 0·13) (P < 0·001), and March 1·6 (s.e. 0·23) and 1·2 (s.e. 0·15) for multiparous and primiparous ewes, respectively. It is concluded that, for ewes lambing at their normal time of mating, (i) the strong seasonal drive for reproduction results in the resumption of oestrous and ovarian cyclicity during the early post-partum period; (ii) initial luteal phases may be of short or extended duration; (Hi) there is no effect of age or dietary protein content, within the range studied, on the onset of ovarian cyclicity; and (iv) multiparous ewes experience a greater number of ovarian cycles and achieve higher ovulation rates than primiparous ewes.