Oxytocin (OT) release and lactation performance in primiparous Syrian Shami cows were evaluated in response to two different machine milking regimes. Six cows were milked in the presence of the calves (PC) and subsequently suckled, whereas six cows were exclusively machine milked without the presence of their calves (WC) until day 91 post partum. Milk yield and milk constituents were determined weekly. The degree of udder evacuation was determined by the succeeding removal of residual milk. PC released OT during the milking process, whereas in WC no OT release was detected throughout the milking process. Consequently, the residual milk fraction was much lower in PC than in WC (11% v. 58%, P<0·05) and daily milk yield until day 91 post partum was higher in PC than in WC (12·6±0·3 v. 7·1±0·4 kg, P<0·05). In conclusion, Syrian Shami cattle are not suitable to be exclusively machine milked without the presence of their calves.