A questionnaire was sent to 2099 dairy farms to investigate the occurrence of poor milkability. Based on that, the frequency of poor milkability in Swiss dairy cows was 4% and the percentage of cows treated with oxytocin (OT) was 2%. In addition, 270 dairy farms that had reported cases of animals with poor milkability were contacted for an interview to classify the disorders. Farmers suspected disturbed milk ejection in 52%, anatomical dysfunction of the teat and/or the udder in 16% and milk ejection disorder or impaired milkability caused by discernable environmental factors in 32% of the cases. Forty-eight animals from 18 farms with suspected milk ejection disorders were selected for an experimental field study which included milk flow recording and OT administration to induce milk ejection. After cessation of the spontaneous milk flow, a low dose of OT (0·2, 0·5 or 1 i.u.) was injected i.v. to test the responsiveness of the udder to OT at a physiological level. When milk flow ceased again, 10 i.u. OT was injected i.v. (supraphysiological) to ensure complete udder emptying and to determine the residual milk. Milk ejection disorder could be confirmed in 69% of the cases, i.e. if residual milk was >20% of the total milk. Because in 27% of the animals milk ejection disorder was not confirmed on the basis of elevated residual milk, an anatomical disorder of the teat and/or the udder was suspected. Milk ejection disorder could be confirmed in 69% of the cases whereas in 27% of the suspected cases an anatomical disorder of the teat and/or the udder was suspected. An increased cortisol production in cows with milk ejection disorder was not obvious because faecal concentrations of cortisol metabolites with a 5β-androstane-3α,11oxo-structure were not augmented in animals with disturbed milk ejection.