Primiparous sows (n = 36) were used to evaluate the effects of dietary lysine intake in lactation on follicular development and oocyte maturation after weaning. Sows were assigned randomly to one of three diets containing .4% (low lysine, LL), 1.0% (medium lysine, ML), or 1.6% (high lysine, HL) total lysine. All diets contained 2.1 Mcal NE/kg and exceeded NRC (1988) requirements for all other nutrients. Actual lysine intakes over an 18-d lactation were 16, 36, and 56 g/d for sows consuming LL, ML, and HL, respectively. Ovarian data were analyzed for sows determined to have been slaughtered during the first proestrus period after weaning, using previously established criteria. Compared with sows fed ML and HL, sows fed LL tended to have lower uterine weight, follicular fluid volume, and follicular fluid (FF) estradiol (E2) content (P < .15), but similar ovarian weight and follicular fluid IGF-I concentration. Within the largest 15 preovulatory follicles, sows fed LL had a lower percentage of large (> or = 7.0 mm) follicles (33 vs 50 and 58%; P < .01) and a higher percentage of medium (5.5 to 7.0 mm) follicles (62 vs 44 and 39%; P < .01) but a similar percentage of small (< or = 5.5 mm) follicles (4.4 vs 5.9 and 3.7%; P > .15), respectively, compared with sows fed ML or HL. Standardized pools of oocytes aspirated from follicles of prepubertal gilts were incubated for 44 h with pooled FF recovered from the largest 15 follicles of each experimental sow. Fewer oocyte nuclei matured to metaphase II of meiosis when cultured with FF recovered from sows fed LL, than from sows fed ML or HL (47.1 vs 59.8 and 63.8%, respectively; P < .01). Our results suggest that low lysine (protein) intake in primiparous lactating sows impaired follicular development and reduced the ability of follicles to support oocyte maturation. However, high compared with medium lysine (protein) intake had no further positive effects on ovarian function.