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Chronic oxytocin treatment causes reduced milk ejection in dairy cows

  • Rupert M Bruckmaier (a1)


The major milk fraction stored in the bovine udder, the alveolar milk, is not available for milk removal before being actively shifted to the cisternal cavities by the milk ejection reflex (Knight et al. 1994; Pfeilsticker et al. 1996). Tactile teat stimulation, provided by the liner throughout milking, causes continuous release of oxytocin from the neuro-pituitary into the blood circulation, which induces myoepithelial contraction and shifting of alveolar milk into the cistern until the end of milking (Bruckmaier et al. 1994; Crowley & Armstrong, 1992; Gorewit et al. 1983; Lefcourt & Akers, 1983). However, milk ejection during machine milking is not complete. A residual milk fraction of 10–30% remains in the udder and is only removed after administration of supraphysiological amounts of oxytocin, usually at least 10 i.u. of oxytocin injected i.v. (Bruckmaier & Blum, 1998). In dairy practice, exogenous oxytocin is often used at high dosages to treat disturbed or incomplete milk ejection. It is reported by farmers and veterinarians that after long-term use of exogenous oxytocin animals become addicted to the treatment and withdrawal of oxytocin causes reduced milk ejection.


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