In order to obtain more information on the importance of the milk ejection reflex in the lactation of normal ewes, experiments were conducted to determine whether the neuroendocrine reflex is able to modify the parameters which characterize the flow rate of the milk under normal milking conditions.
Ewes were allowed to suckle their lambs freely during the 3 days following parturition. They were then milked with a machine and the individual milk production was measured volumetrically at each milking. Different fractions obtained during milking (‘machine milk’, ‘machine strippings’ and ‘hand strippings’), and the milk flow, were measured using a sensitive recording system. In further experiments, machine milking was performed after intravenous administration of oxytocin, during general anaesthesia, and after unilateral or bilateral denervation of the mammary gland.
The ewes fell into 2 categories: those giving most of their milk in 1 rapid emission, and those giving it in 2 quite separate emissions. The results indicated that the second emission found in some of the ewes was the milk emptied from the acini by the neuroendocrine ejection reflex. Disappearance of the second emission resulted from the administration of oxytocin before milking—which induces passage of the milk from the acini into the mammary cistern—and also from general anaesthesia or denervation of the mammary gland.