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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Feeding and Manual Brushing Influence the Release of Oxytocin, ACTH and Cortisol Differently During Milking in Dairy Cows

Wredle, Ewa; Svennersten-Sjaunja, Kerstin; Munksgaard, Lene; Herskin, Mette S.; Bruckmaier, Rupert M.; Uvnaes-Moberg, Kerstin


AimThis study aimed to examine the effects of feeding or abdominal brushing on the release of the hormones oxytocin, ACTH and cortisol during milking in dairy cows. MethodsTwelve cows in early lactation were used (2 x 2 factorial experimental design), testing the effects of two types of sensory stimulation during milking over a 3 day period; feeding concentrate or manual abdominal brushing (1 stroke/s). Blood samples for hormone analyses were collected at time at -15, -1, 0 (onset of cluster), every min for 8 min, at 10, 12, 14, 16, 30, and 60 min. Hormone levels were assayed and AUC was calculated. ResultsMilking was associated with an immediate and significant rise of oxytocin. When milking was combined with feeding, significantly higher levels of oxytocin were observed at 2 and 4 mins (p < 0.05). No effect of brushing on oxytocin levels was observed. Milking alone was associated with a significant rise of ACTH levels. Feeding in connection with milking reduced the immediate rise of ACTH levels (p < 0.05) and AUC (p < 0.02), whereas no effects of brushing were found. Milking caused a progressive rise of cortisol levels. Concomitant feeding did not influence cortisol levels, whereas brushing significantly decreased cortisol levels at 1, 5 and 14 mins after onset of milking (p < 0.05). ConclusionFeeding increases oxytocin release in response to milking and decreases ACTH levels. Abdominal brushing did not influence these variables, but decreased cortisol levels. These data demonstrate that activation of afferent vagal nerve fibres and of cutaneous sensory nerves originating from the abdominal skin in front of the udder influence milking related hormone release differently.


cutaneous sensory nerves; afferent vagal nerves; feeding; brushing; oxytocin; dairy cows; milk yield; cortisol

Published in

Frontiers in Neuroscience
2022, Volume: 16, article number: 671702