The goal of the present study was to examine the suitability of a short pre-stimulation (P) for 15 s followed by a latency period (L) of 30 s before cluster attachment for machine milking. In addition we tested the effect of a periodic reduction of the vacuum under the teat (VR) during the massage phase from 43 kPa to 12–15 kPa on milking characteristics and teat tissue condition. The study was carried out in 9 cows in a cross-over design. Animals were milked twice daily, and each of the 4 treatment combinations was used for six subsequent milkings (P+L vs. continuous P, and standard pulsation vs. VR, respectively). Milk flow was recorded during all experimental milkings. Longitudinal ultrasound cross sections of the teat were performed by B-mode ultrasound after the last milking of each treatment at 0, 5, and 15 min after the end of milking, respectively. None of the evaluated milking characteristics (total milk yield, main milking time, peak flow rate, average milk flow) differed between treatments. Teat measures as obtained by ultrasound cross sections showed no significant difference if individual treatments were compared at the three time points individually. However, teat wall thickness (TWT) tended to be smaller in VR vs. non-VR treatments at 5 min after milking (P=0·05). In conclusion, teat preparation consisting of a short stimulation followed by a latency period represents a similarly efficient pre-stimulation as a continuous pre-stimulation. VR seems to reduce the load on the teat tissue during milking and thus reduces the development of oedema and hence a less pronounced increase of TWT while milking characteristics are similar with or without VR.