There has been substantial recent interest in shortening dry periods; however, the effects of this management change on reproduction have not been adequately evaluated. Holstein cows (n = 58) were assigned in a randomized block design to 1 of 3 treatments: 1) traditional (T) dry period (∼56 d) in which cows were fed a low energy diet from 56 to 29 d prepartum followed by a moderate energy diet for 28 d; 2) shortened (S) dry period (∼28 d) in which cows were fed continuously a high energy diet; or 3) no planned (N) dry period in which cows were fed continuously a high energy diet. All cows received a high energy lactation diet after calving. Ovaries were evaluated by ultrasound and blood samples collected 3 times weekly beginning at d 6 or 7 postpartum until 7 d after second ovulation. Average days from calving until first detection of a 10-mm follicle were fewer in N (8.0 d) and S (8.9 d) than in T (10.5 d) cows. Time from calving to first ovulation was earlier in N (13.2 d) than in S (23.8 d) and T (31.9 d) cows. A greater percentage of follicles of the first follicular wave ovulated in N (89%; 16/18) than in T (42%; 8/19), with S (62%; 13/21) cows being intermediate. Double ovulation rate at the first ovulation was greater in T (61%) than N (16%), with S (35%) intermediate. No difference was detected in double ovulation rate at second ovulation (13/56). Number of cows with persistent corpus luteum (>30 d; 15/56) was not different among groups; however, short luteal phases were greater in N (28%; 5/18) than S (0%; 0/20) cows. Days to first artificial insemination were fewer in N (69.4 d) and S (68.0 d) than in T (75.0 d). First-service conception rate was greater in N (55%; 11/20) than in T (20%; 4/20), with S (26%; 6/23) cows being intermediate. Days open in pregnant cows were fewer in N (93.8 d) than in T (145.4 d), with S (121.2 d) cows being intermediate. Thus, shortening or eliminating the dry period leads to earlier postpartum ovulation and the results highlight the need for future large field studies to accurately evaluate the effect of dry period length on reproductive performance of lactating dairy cows. © American Dairy Science Association, 2005.