Sucrose density centrifugation was used to prepare a partially purified membrane fraction from the mammary glands of non-pregnant, pregnant and lactating sheep. The binding of125 I-labelled insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) was dependent on membrane protein concentration, pH, time and temperature. The binding showed the characteristics of a type-1 IGF receptor, being displaced by IGF-I (median effective dose (ED50) 0·55 nmol/l), less effectively by IGF-II (ED50 8·8 nmol/l) and least effectively by insulin. Glucagon, ovine prolactin and ovine placental lactogen could not displace binding. A molecular weight of 135 000 was determined by affinity cross-linking using disuccinimidyl suberate; this was consistent with the reported size of the type-1 receptor α-subunit. Scatchard analysis was used to determine binding affinity and numbers of IGF-I-binding sites. A single class of high-affinity binding sites was found in all physiological states. In non-pregnant sheep and sheep at days 40, 75 and 110–120 of pregnancy and at term, the binding affinity was similar (apparent dissociation constant (Kd) 2·73 ±0·31 nmol/l, n = 22). In lactating sheep (weeks 1, 4 and 10), the binding affinity was significantly (P = 0·02) higher (Kd 0·77± 0·06 nmol/l n = 9). Binding capacity was similar in non-pregnant and pregnant sheep (1005 ± 113 fmol/mg, n = 19), but fell by parturition and remained low in lactation (570±52 fmol/mg membrane protein, n = 12). The results suggest that the mammary growth of pregnancy is not regulated at the level of the type-1 IGF receptor.