Milk flow in nine primiparous cows with disturbed milk ejection (D) and in six corresponding control animals (C) with normal milk removal was recorded during machine milking and blood samples were taken before and during milking to determine plasma oxytocin, vasopressin. prolactin, cortisol, oestradiol-17β, luteinizing hormone, progesterone and β-endorphin concentrations. Manual teat stimulation before milking lasted for 1 min. After milk flow had stopped, air was blown into the vagina for 2 min. When milk flow had stopped again, 1 i.u. oxytocin and finally 10 i.u. oxytocin were injected to remove residual milk. During and after teat stimulation, oxytocin remained basal in D, but increased in C, whereas prolactin increased in both groups. While 94% of total milk was obtained in C during this period, only 9% could be removed from D, indicating lack of alveolar milk ejection. During vaginal stimulation, oxytocin increased transiently in D and more than by teat stimulation in C. This allowed the removal of 75% of milk in D, whereas almost no more milk was available in C. After oxytocin injections, 3 and 16% of residual milk were obtained in C and D respectively. Basal oestradiol-17β concentration was higher in D than in C (11·6 and 2·0 ng/1 respectively), whereas β-endorphin level was lower (24·1 and 86·6 μg/1 respectively). Basal concentration of luteinizing hormone and progesterone, and concentration of cortisol and vasopressin before and during milking were comparable in C and D. We conclude that in cows with disturbed milk ejection afferent nervous pathways to the hypothalamus were intact, because prolactin was released by teat stimulation. However, oxytocin was only released by vaginal stimulation, i.e. milk ejection was centrally inhibited during teat stimulation.