Livestock Research for Rural Development 14 (1) 2002

Effects of mode of supplementation upon milk and growth performances of suckling Creole goats and their kids reared at pasture in Guadeloupe  

G Alexandre, J Fleury, O Coppry, H Archimede and A Xandé

Unité de Recherches Zootechniques, INRA Antilles-Guyane,

BP 515, 97165 Pointe à Pitre Cédex, Guadeloupe (FWI)



Three consecutive experiments were carried out to determine the effect of supplementation upon milk production and growth performance of Creole goats in Guadeloupe. Creole goats and their kids were reared on a Digitaria decumbens pasture. Each year, three cohorts of goats were conducted: in the dry season (D season), in the rainy season (R season) and in the intermediate season (I season). Weaning took place at 81.7 ± 5.9 days post-partum. In a first trial during R and D seasons, does were offered either  0.45 kg/day (GS group) of commercial pellets (10.3 MJ ME and 180 g CP per kg DM) or no supplements (GN group). In  a second trial in  D, R and  I seasons the same total amount of 35 kg pellets per goat and per lactation were distributed either regularly (RD group, as above for GS group) or either gradually (GD group). In the third trial in D, R and  I seasons,  feeding of the does was the same as for GD group in trial 2. Treatments were determined according to the supplementation level of the kids: in KS, commercial pellets were supplied ad libitum from the 6th week to weaning and in KN there was no supplementation.

In trial 1, supplementation of the does increased milk production (1023 vs 520 g/d), average daily gain of the kids and reduced the mortality rate. In trial 2, the mode of supplement distribution had no effect upon milk production and growth rate of the kids.  In trial 3, the adjusted mean daily milk production for the first 6 weeks of lactation was 1218 g/d.  Supplementary feeding of the kids increased growth rate from 40 days to 80 days, weaning weight and live weight at 120 days.

Further studies are required to set up supplementation strategies according to the whole system of production, over the production cycle of the doe and the kid, and in different seasons, in accordance with availability of tropical feeds.

Key words: Creole goats, nutrition level, season, milk production, growth performance, tropical pasture.


In the Caribbean, the goat population is mainly raised under the suckling system for meat production (Devendra and Burns 1983; Alexandre et al 1991). Systems of production are based on grazing natural or exotic pastures whose nutritive value is poor to medium (Aumont et al 1995). In Guadeloupe, the Creole goat, as a continuous breeder, achieves three kiddings within two years and suckles its kids (2.1 kids /litter) for more than two months (Alexandre et al 1999). Following such an intensive rate of reproduction and achieving high levels of productivity depend partly on the supplementary intake of energy-richer feed. The low energy content of tropical grasses is known as the major feeding constraint to the performance of grazing animals in many tropical situations (Minson 1990). Thus, supplementation is required in order to increase animal performances and has been investigated for Creole suckling goats in Guadeloupe.

Few studies exist on the effects of supplementing the kids during the suckling phase. Providing supplements rich in energy and nitrogen to young lambs improved their pre-weaning performance and allowed weaning at an early age (Brown 1964; Prache et al 1988). In Creole kids (Levy and Alexandre 1985), a strict suckling management is applied from birth to 6 weeks (first stage), in which milk is the main nutrient for growth. Beyond this stage (second stage), kids begin to ingest solid feeds (forages and pellets).

The first trial was carried out in order to determine the effects of supplementation upon does' milk production and growth performance of the litter. Nutrient requirements vary with the stage of lactation during the suckling period, and also during the overall reproductive cycle. The objective of the second trial was to test the effect of the mode of distribution of supplements of the does during the suckling period.

The objective of the third trial was to estimate the effects of concentrate supply to the kids during the second stage of the suckling period.

Materials and methods

The study was conducted in the Animal Production Unit (APU) at the INRA Research Centre in Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is a humid tropical island of the Caribbean area (16.1° N; 61.6° W). The experimental farm of the INRA-APU is located in the dry zone. Annual rainfall averages 1280 mm, with a marked dry season from January to July (less than 70 mm per month). Maximum air temperatures varies from 27°C (January) to 32°C (August) and the minimum  from 21°C to 25°C, respectively. The relative humidity is usually above 70% and the day length ranges from 11 h to 13 h.

Animals and their management

Creole meat type goats (about 25 kg live weight), described by  Alexandre et al (1984, 2001), were used in the three experiments. The animals were subjected to three kiddings within a two year mating system. The kidding periods were the dry season  (DS: mid March to mid-April), the intermediate season (IS: mid-July to mid-August) and the rainy season (RS: mid-November to mid-December). The kids were weaned at about 80 days of age. Regular drenchings were carried out in order to control gastro-intestinal parasitism: monthly for kids from birth to weaning and every two months for weaned kids and goats. External parasites were controlled every two weeks for young and adults goats (spray of acaricides).

Feeding management

The basal diet was Pangola (Digitaria decumbens) grazed rotationally every 35 days (estimated as having 9.05 MJ ME and 123 g CP per kg DM, Aumont et al 1995) at an average stocking rate of 1400 kg live weight/ha. Commercial pellets (10.3 MJ ME and 180 g CP per kg DM) were used in the different experiments and contained: maize 32.5 %, wheat bran 40.0 %, soya bean meal 15.0 %, sugar cane molasses 6.0 % and minerals 6.5 %.

The numbers of goats and kids in each treatment group in each of three trials is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Composition of the different groups of goats and their kids according to the supplementation level in trial 1, the mode of supplement distribution in trial 2, and the supplementation of the kids in trial 3, and according to the mating season (dry, rainy and intermediate).












Trial 1 : year 1992; doe supplementation effect















Trial 2 : year 1993; mode of distribution of supplement to does















Trial 3 : year 1994; kid supplementation effect















Trial 1

During the rainy and the dry seasons (RS and DS, respectively) suckling does and their kids were allocated to two treatments:

GS: Commercial pellets offered over the first 12 weeks of lactation at 0.45 kg per doe per day

GN: No supplement 

Trial 2

The does were offered the same total amount of pellets/head (35 kg over 12 lactation weeks). In each season (RS, DS and IS), there were two different distribution modes:

GD: Supplement reduced gradually (700 g/goat/day during the first 3 weeks, then 500, 300 and 200 g/day during successive 3 week periods).

RD: The same total amount of supplement but with regular distribution of 450 g/head/day

Trial 3

The supplement was gradually distributed to each goat as described above for the GD treatment. At the beginning of each season two treatments were applied: with or without supplementation of the kids.

KS: Supplement offered ad libitum from the 6th week of age to weaning (12 weeks)

KN: No supplement

In both treatments, the kids had no access to supplement when the does were being fed. After weaning, kids of both treatments were grazed together but in separate groups according to sex. The grazing was Pangola pasture (as described above) with a mean stocking rate of 1000 kg live weight/ha. There was no supplementation.


In trial 1 for each season, milk production of 20 goats (8 single- and 12 twin-bearing does) was estimated weekly from the first to the 12th week of lactation, using the oxytocin method adapted to suckling goats by Alexandre (1983). In trial 2, for each season and in each treatment group, milk production  of 12 multi-parous twin-suckling goats was recorded weekly during the 12 weeks of lactation. In trial 3, milk production was measured during the first six weeks of lactation.

In trial 3, the supplement offered to the kids of the KS group was weighed every day and the intake determined by weighing collective refusals every two days.

In each trial, the goats and kids were weighed every two weeks from birth to weaning. After weaning, kids were weighed weekly during the six weeks following weaning. The individual live weights were used to estimate the live weight at fixed ages: at 40 days (LW40), at 80 days (LW80) and at 120 days (LW120). The average daily gains between birth and LW40 and between LW40 and LW80 were then calculated.

Statistical analysis

Analyses of variance with the SAS general linear model (SAS 1989) were carried out to determine the effects of doe supplementation level, of mode of supplement distribution and of level of kid supplementation level in trials 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The individual performances of the does were analysed using GLM models which included season, parity and live weight. The analyses of the kid performances took into account the sex, the litter size and with the birth weight as covariable.


Effects of doe supplementation

Milk production of supplemented goats was twice (P<0.001) that of goats grazing Pangola alone, irrespective of the season and the litter size (1023 ± 162  vs 520 ± 174 g/d over the 12 weeks of lactation, respectively). Production was higher for does that kidded in the dry season (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Milk production of Creole goats (with twin kids) grazing Digitaria decumbens pastures in Guadeloupe
and receiving either 0.45 kg per day of commercial pellets (GS) or no supplement (GN),
and according to the dry and the rainy season (DS and RS, respectively)

 Kids from supplemented does grew faster and were heavier at weaning than those from unsupplemented does. Kids from does mated in the dry season were lighter at birth but grew faster than kids from does mated in the rainy season. Mortality was less in kids from supplemented does and in those from does mated during the dry season (Table 2). Litter size and sex of kids were significant sources of variation.  

Table 2. Least square means of birth weight (kg), live weight (kg) adjusted to fixed age and average daily gain at different intervals of Creole kids according to the doe’s supplementation level and mating season.



Mating season






Number of live kids





Birth weight (kg)





ADG 0-40 (g/d)





ADG 40-80 (g/d)





ADG 0-80 (g/d)





Weaning weight (kg)





Mortality rate# (%)

0 A

19.1 B

8.2 A

27.9 B

# Mortality percentages are compared according to the Chi-square method
Values within row for each factor of variation with different superscripts differ according to ab P<0.01 and AB P<0.001).

Effect of mode of distribution of the supplement

The adjusted mean daily milk production of multiparous does suckling twins was 1030 g/d for the entire lactation (Table 3). No significant difference between the distribution modes was observed. On the other hand, goats mated in the rainy season exhibited a lower milk production than those mated during the other seasons. Growth rate of the kids from 40 to 80 days was higher when the does had uniform rate of supplementation.  Kids from does mated in the rainy season were heavier at birth but then grew more slowly than those from does mated in the other seasons (Table 3).  

Table 3. Least square means of Creole goat's milk production (g/d) and birth weight (kg), live weight (kg) adjusted to fixed age and daily weight gain (g) of Creole kids according to mode of supplement distribution and mating season.



Mating season







No. of does






Milk production (kg) #






Kid performance to weaning 

Number of kids






Birth weight (kg)






ADG 0-40 (g/d)






ADG 40-80 (g/d)






Weaning weight (kg)






# Milk production of 12 multi-parous goats suckling twins for each season in each mode of supplementation
Values within rows for each factor of variation with different superscripts differ a b: P<0.05 and  A B: P<0.01

 Supplementation of the kids
0 to 40 days before supplementation of the kids

The adjusted mean daily milk production of multiparous goats suckling twins, during the first 6 weeks of lactation, was 1218 g/day (Table 4). However goats that kidded in the dry season had 12% higher milk production than during the two other seasons, which was reflected in faster growth of the kids to weaning. 

Table 4. Least square means of Creole goat's milk production (g/d) during the first 6 weeks of lactation and birth weight (kg), live weight (kg) adjusted to fixed age and daily weight gain (g) of Creole kids according to the kid supplementation and the kidding season


Supplementation of kids

Kidding season







No. of does controlled






Milk production (g/d) #



1299 a

1129 b

1197 b

Growth of  kids

Number of kids






Birth weight





1.65 a



5.22 a



5.05 b

ADG 0-40






Weaning weight






ADG 40-80












# Milk production of 12 multiparous goats suckling twins for each season and kid supplementation treatment
Values within rows for each factor of variation with different superscripts differ: a b: P<0.05 and  A B C: P<0.01

40 to 120 days with supplementation of the kids

Supplementation of the kids increased:  growth rate from 40 to 80 days, weaning weight and live weight at 120 days (Table 4). Growth traits post weaning for kids born in the rainy season were poorer than for those born in the other seasons. There were no significant interactions among sources of variation. 

The total amount of supplement consumed reached about 4 kg per kid over a 6 weeks period . Pellets intake of the kids increased rapidly from about 50 g/day/kid to more than 180 g/day/kid from the beginning to the end of the period (Fig. 2). No difference appeared between seasons.


Figure 2.
Evolution of supplement intake by the kids (g per kid and per day) during the second stage of their suckling period (from the 6th week of age to weaning) in the KS treatment in trial 3.



Supplementation of the does

There was an efficient response to supplementation of the does (0.45 kg supplement generated 0.5 kg more milk). This agrees with INRA recommendations for goat milk production (Morand-Fehr and Sauvant 1988). The results show that Creole goats exhibit high milking capacities provided that the feeding level and management are adequate. The milk yields were higher than has been reported for other tropical meat breeds in Mexico (Romero et al 1994) and in Nigeria (Egwu et al 1995). Raats (1988) reported a milk production of 125 g/d/kg LW0.75 for Boer goats, whereas in our conditions with a similar supplementation level the yield was 97 g/d/kg LW0.75 . 

The growth response of the kids followed the same pattern as the doe milk yield, which agrees with the general conclusion that pre-weaning growth is mainly dependent on milk production (Peart 1981; Alexandre 1983; Singh 1996). Growth performances of Creole kids are quite satisfactory. When our results are expressed in g/d/kg birth weight, they are close to those of larger breeds: 4.7g/day/kg  against 5.0 g/d/kg for the local Malawi goat, 4.7 g/d/kg for the Malawi*Boer goat (Banda et al 1993), 4.5 g/d/kg  for the ¾ Saanen*1/4 local goat in Brazil (Seteneraski an Nunes do Prado 1993) and 5.2 g/day/kg for the Sirohi goat (Singh 1996). 

Supplementation of the kids

Prior to weaning, the kids rapidly increased their pellet intake, as has been observed by Levy and Alexandre (1985). The average intake reached at weaning of 23 g DM/LW0.75 was very similar to 29 g DM/ LW0.75 reported by Morand-Fehr et al (1983) for twin kids from milk breeds two days before weaning.  The significant increase in growth performance of supplemented kids after 40 days of age and after weaning could be related mainly to the effect of the supplement level. The response to supplementation, however, was low: 12.5 % difference for growth from 40 to 80 days and 5 % difference for live weight at weaning. The  milk intake of the kids might have been high enough to induce good levels of growth in both supplemented and unsupplemented kids. The same difference (5 %) obtained at weaning, was observed 6 weeks after weaning.  In fact, a part of the performance after weaning depends on the feeding level before weaning (Alexandre 1983; Morand-Fehr et al 1983). In trial 3, some weaker kids (n = 54 in both groups) were weaned at a light weaning weight: 7.3 kg in GS and at 6.8 kg in GN (P<0.01). Supplementation obviously reduced the magnitude of the weaning stress since growth rates after weaning were 36 g vs 9 g/day, for GS and GN kids, respectively (P<0.01). Similar conclusions were reported by Morand-Fehr et al (1983) and Prache and Theriez (1988).

Season effects

Goats that kidded in the rainy season exhibited lower milk yield and poorer kid growth than those that kidded during the other two seasons, which agrees with reports for goats by Alexandre et al (1999) and for suckling ewes by Mahieu et al (1997). The negative effect of the rainy season upon goat performance could be due to several factors. It was probably linked to severe gastro-parasitism constraints as mentioned by Aumont et al (1997). In our conditions (irrigated pasture and high stocking rate) it has been estimated (Aumont et al 1991) that the infestation risk increased by up to 25 % between the humid and the other seasons. On the other hand, the bad sward structure occurring  during this season, as measured by Alexandre et al (2001) (at 35 days of re-growth Pangola exhibited high biomass yield of 6200 kg DM/ha but a low leaf/stem ratio of  65%). This might have affected the intake level of the does as generally reported for animals reared at  pasture (Minson 1990).


Creole goats exhibited a good level of production compared to other tropical native breeds, when the nutrition level and management were adequate. The high level of concentrates supplied, either for does or for suckled kids, reduced the negative effects of the low nutritive value of tropical pastures. However, these data were obtained for experimental purposes and can not be promoted at the farmer's level.  

Further studies are required to set up supplementation strategies according to the whole system of production, over the production cycle of the doe and the kid, and in different seasons, in accordance with availability of tropical feeds.


The authors are  very grateful to Dr Preston for the consistent work done reviewing the manuscript.


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Received 26 January 2002

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