Eight cows were machine milked either in an operating theatre or in their familiar barn. During the experiments, milk flow curves were recorded and blood samples were taken for determination of concentrations of oxytocin, prolactin, cortisol and β–endorphin. The milking cluster was attached without udder preparation. After cessation of milk flow, 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 the remaining milk. After the start of milking, oxytocin remained basal in unfamiliar, but increased in familiar surroundings. Therefore, during normal milking only 9% of total milk was removed in unfamiliar, whereas 79% was available in familiar surroundings. In response to subsequent vaginal stimulation in the operating theatre, oxytocin increased transiently in five cows and 15–71% of the milk was removed in these animals. In the other three cows in the operating theatre, oxytocin remained basal during vaginal stimulation, and no more milk was available. After injection of 1 i.u. oxytocin, 56 and 11%, and after injection of 10 i.u. oxytocin, 13 and 8% of milk was removed in unfamiliar and familiar surroundings respectively. Concentrations of prolactin increased during the course of milking in both treatments. Premilking concentrations of cortisol and β–endorphin were elevated in unfamiliar as compared with familiar surroundings. During the course of milking, cortisol increased slightly and β–endorphin decreased in unfamiliar, whereas both hormones increased markedly during milking in familiar surroundings. We conclude that disturbed milk removal in unfamiliar surroundings is due to central inhibition of oxytocin release during normal milking and partly also to a response to vaginal stimulation. This blockade is possibly associated with elevated concentrations of β–endorphin.