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Livestock Research for Rural Development (13) 3 2001 http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd13/3/alex133.

htm

Reproductive performances of Creole


goats in Guadeloupe (French West
Indies)
1. Station-based data
G Alexandre, G Matheron*, P Chemineau** , J Fleury
and A Xandé
Unité de Recherches Zootechniques, INRA Antilles-Guyane, Domaine
Duclos, Prise d'Eau 97170 Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe, French West
Indies
Telephone: 0590255933; Fax: 0590255936;
e-mail: alexandre@antilles.inra.fr
* Président du Centre CIRAD (Centre International de Recherche
Agronomique pour le Développement) de Montpellier, Avenue
Agropolis 34398 Montpellier
** Directeur de l’UMR (Unité Mixte de Recherche) INRA-CNRS-
Université de Tours Physiologie de la reproduction et des comportements
37380 Nouzilly

Abstract

Reproductive performances of the Creole goat, the meat breed of Guadeloupe in the
Caribbean, are described from a database generated for 15 years (1973 to 1988) at an
experimental farm of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA,
Guadeloupe, French West Indies). The data contain information on 599 females, 2259
attempted matings, 2135 achieved matings and 1904 kiddings. Animals were reared
under semi-intensive management conditions (on the basis of feeding system, health and
culling policy). Main sources of variation were analysed: mating type (buck in
permanence or buck effect), mating season (dry, intermediate and humid season) and
rank of kidding. The Creole goat is a continuous breeder. On average 94.5 percent of
exposed females were mated (defined as mating rate) and 90.5 percent of exposed
females achieved a kidding (fertility rate). Their prolificacy reached 1.98 kids/kidding,
with only 3.9 percent of kids born dead. These reproductive parameters varied essentially
with rank of kidding but very poorly with the mating season. Productivity of these
females was regularly high during their whole lifetime production. From the results
obtained, it is concluded that Creole goats have very high reproductive performances,
provided that animal husbandry and nutrition are adequate.
Keywords : Creole goat, fertility rate, litter size, neonatal mortality, buck effect, humid tropics, Guadeloupe

Introduction

In the Caribbean, as in many other tropical countries, goats are mainly raised under the
suckling system for meat production (Devendra and Burns 1983; Alexandre et al 1991).
In spite of the fact that the goat is of paramount importance to smallholders and to the
local meat markets, only a few isolated attempts at improving its production through
controlled management have been made. In addition, little attention has been paid to the
indigenous tropical breeds (Taneja 1982; Devendra and Burns 1983; Le Gal and
Planchenault 1993), that have been considered adapted to the tropics but of low
productivity.

It is generally reported that increasing the reproductive rate and/or reproductive


performances are important ways of improving meat production in the tropics (Terril
1983; Wilson and Light 1986). Therefore, an assessment of the general reproductive
characteristics of native breeds is necessary prior to developing strategies aimed at
improving meat supplies. The assessment of the production potential requires a large
number of animals, raised over several years and under controlled management. Only a
few studies on the tropical goat’s reproductive performances have been reported under
experimental station conditions (Kochapakdee et al 1994; Montaldo et al 1995).

In Guadeloupe, the local meat breed is called the “Creole goat” as it is called in other
Caribbean regions. Recent studies in the field of genetic markers indicated that it was
derived from the West African Dwarf Goat (Pepin 1994). Experiments have been carried
out in Guadeloupe on the Creole goat evaluating reproductive physiology (Chemineau
1986) and preweaning performances (Alexandre et al 1999). The objectives of this
present study were to determine the reproductive potential of the Creole goat and to
examine the main factors responsible for variations observed.

Materials and methods

This study was based on data generated from 1973 to 1988 (15 years) 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
temperature 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


All the females used in the experimental flock were Creole goats, which have been
described as small-sized animals by Chemineau et al (1984). The adult females had a
mean (± SD) liveweight of 25 ± 7 kg and a mean (± SD) wither height of 51 ± 4 cm.
Initially, animals were maintained under extensive management conditions from 1973 to
1979. This involved grazing dry pastures, no supplementation and limited preventive
health management. Males were permanently kept with the herd. The stock was built up
from 1979 with animals coming from different zones of Guadeloupe. The flock size
increased from about 50 to 100 does. Since 1979 semi-intensive reproductive
management has been practised, achieving a frequency of three kiddings in two years and
three mating seasons per year (March, July and November). From 1979 to 1983 several
experiments took place in the field of reproductive performance and sexual activity of the
does and bucks (Chemineau 1986). Since 1984 the research program has dealt with
feeding of the does during the suckling period; and the goat flock has expanded from 120
to 150 does.

From 1979 to 1988, the buck effect was systematically used for inducing ovulatory and
oestrus activities. At each season, after more than three weeks of complete separation
from females, vasectomised males, harnessed with raddle blocks, were introduced in the
doe flock at a ratio of one male to ten females. The mating period lasted for 45 days from
1979 to 1983 and lasted for 30 days from 1984 to 1988. Every day, freshly marked
females were exposed to a specific male chosen according to a planned mating. Hand
mating was then conducted once per day, from 1979 to 1983 and then twice per day, from
1984 to 1988.

Dipping was done every 2 weeks for tick control, while anthelminthic drenchings were
carried out every month for the suckling kids and every 1.5 to 2 months for the weaned
animals and adults, from 1979 to 1988

Feeding management

Year round grazing was on Digitaria decumbens pastures, which were rotated at 35 days
age of regrowth. These pastures were irrigated after 1984 and were fertilised with 300 kg
N/ha/y. As regards supplementation, no supplementary feed was provided from 1973 to
1979. After 1979, reproductive and suckling does were supplemented with commercial
pellets (10.3 MJ ME and 180 g CP per kg DM) which were supplied at various levels
depending on the experiment.

Data base and statistical analysis

Regular animal performance monitoring was carried out and this allowed the
development of a database containing information on 599 females, involving 2259
attempted matings, 2135 achieved matings and 1904 kiddings. Unknown reproduction
management occurring during the first four years and management with buck running
permanently with the flock represented 26% of the total of attempted matings. At each
mating season, the number of females exposed to teaser males was noted. At every
reproductive event, i.e. oestrus, mating, or service, dates and the number of the animal
involved were recorded. If abortion occurred, this was recorded along with the size of the
aborted litter. At birth, animals were ear tagged, then the number of the parents, the sex
and number of stillborn and living kids were collected. From 1973 to 1979 and for the 20
% of the foundation flock, the females had unknown birth date, then age at first kidding
was not estimated. So intervals between different reproductive events have been
calculated as the interval related to the first kidding; this term has been defined as the
reproductive age of the doe. Rank of kidding has been defined as the parity of the doe.
Mating rate (MR) has been calculated, for each mating season, as the ratio of the number
of matings to the number of exposed females. Fertility rate (FR) is the frequency of
exposed females giving birth to kids (born dead or alive). Between two successive
kiddings, the number of matings which were necessary to induce a kidding were added
and named number of services per kidding. The litter size (LS) was defined as number of
total born kids reported on total kidding does. General linear model (SAS 1988)
procedures were used to adjust data to the following sources of variation: year,
experiments nested to the year, mating season, mating type combined with year and rank
of kidding.

Results

Mating type effect

During three successive years the two mating types, buck effect and buck running
permanently with the flock, were used for different experiments in two different groups.
The main results are reported in Table 1. The mean (± SD) fertility rate varied from 86 ±
4 % to 90 ± 3 %, while the mean (± SD) kidding intervals ranged from 284± 28 days to
246 ± 10 days and the mean (± SD) litter sizes were 1.95 ± 0.13 and 1.80 ± 0.05 total kids
born alive, respectively. The kid mortality at birth was 0.02 to 0.04 %.

Table 1: Reproductive performances of the Creole goat at the INRA Guadeloupe


according to the year and the mating type: M1, buck effect and M2, buck kept
permanently with the flock (definitions in the text)
Mating year 1979 1980 1981
Mating type M1 M2 M1 M2 M1 M2
Number of does 93 27 151 71 157 30
Mating rate * (%) 94a 84b 84A 100B 92A 100B
Fertility rate ** (%) 82a 88a 85 A 95 B 90a 88b
Kidding interval (days) 319A 223B 262a 252a 270a 254b
A B a b a
Kids born alive 2.02 1.75 2.00 1.82 1.76 1.82a
Kids born dead 0.03 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.04 0.02
* Mating rate = ratio of the number of matings to the number of exposed females
** Fertility rate = frequency of exposed females giving birth to kids (dead or alive)
Values within same row and same year with different superscripts are significantly
different: a and b for P<0.05 and for A and B for P<0.01

Mating season effect


Number of exposed females, matings and kiddings were generally at the same level for
the three mating seasons (Table 2). Average mating and fertility rates were 95.0 and 90.5
%, respectively. Kidding interval was 267 days and number of total kids born per kidding
varied from 1.92 to 2.00. During mating in the intermediate season of July, lower services
per kidding (1.06) and higher fertility rates (92.7 %) where observed than in the two other
seasons. No other mating season effect upon reproductive parameters was observed.

Table 2: Reproductive performances of the Creole goat at the INRA


Guadeloupe according to the mating season (adjusted data for mating type and
year): mating and fertility rates (%), number of services per kidding, kiddings
interval (days) and prolificacy at birth (number of kids born alive or dead)
Parameter\Mating season* Dry Intermediate Rainy SE
Number of joinings 790 753 716
Number of matings 740 711 684
Number of kiddings 646 658 600
Mating rate ** (%) 93.5 94.5 95.5 0.05
a b a
Fertility rate ** (%) 89.1 92.7 89.6 0.08
Number of services *** 1.09 a 1.06 b 1.08 a 0.08
Kidding interval (days) 270 265 266 45
Number of kids born alive 1.82 1.89 1.86 0.09
Number of kids born dead 0.08 0.08 0.06
* Dry season (mid March), intermediate season (mid July) and rainy season
(mid November)
** Mating rate = ratio of the number of matings to the number of exposed
females; fertility rate = frequency of exposed females giving birth to kids (dead
and/or alive)
*** Number of services per kidding = total number of matings, between two
successive kiddings, necessary to induce a kidding
Values within same row with different superscripts are different P<0.01

Mating year effect

The buck effect was applied between 1979 and 1988 with a 2-year break in 1982 and
1983 where other experimental techniques were conducted. The year effect was studied
for this mating type. Significant differences (P<0.01) occurred from one year to another
for mating and fertility rates (Figure 1a).
Figure 1a: Yearly variations of reproductive performances of Creole goats in
Guadeloupe: mating rate (ratio of the number of matings to the number of exposed
females, %) and fertility rate (frequency of exposed females giving birth to kids, dead
and/or alive, %)

Mating rates ranged from 84 % to 98 %, while fertility rates varied from 82 % to 96 %.


Except for the years 1979 to 1981, when specific experiments on reproduction occurred,
kiddings interval decreased from 280 to 245 days and litter size was regularly distributed
around 1.9 kids born alive (Figure 1b).
Figure 1b: Yearly variations of reproductive performances of Creole goats in Guadeloupe: kidding interval
(days) and litter size at birth (number of kids born alive / kidding)

Reproductive history of the doe

The flock comprised more than 50 % of the total females having achieved 3 kiddings and
having an 18 month-reproductive age (Table 3). Almost one third of the flock (29 %
females) had their rank of kidding equal to or higher than 6 kiddings with a reproductive
age reaching 43 or 52 months, respectively.

Table 3: Creole goats distribution according to rank of kidding and age of


reproduction of the does
Rank of kidding 1 2 3 4 5 6 ≥ 7*
Number of kiddings 599 437 311 225 155 92 85
Frequency (%) 100 73 52 38 26 15 14
Reproductive age ** 0 9 18 26 35 43 52
* Rank of kidding equal or higher than 7
** Reproductive age is calculated in months as the interval between one given
kidding to the next kidding (definitions in the text)

The mating and the kidding rates (Figure 2) ranged from 91 % and 76 % to 93 % and 82
%, from the first to the fifth rank of kidding. These figures then declined regularly to 85
% and 68 % for the last rank of kidding, respectively. The litter size at birth increased
from 1.65 to 2.35 total kids born, from the first to the seventh kiddings, respectively
(Figure 2). The values for the number of kids born alive were 1.52 and 2.20, respectively.
The difference between the total number of kids born and the number of kids born alive
(0.05) remained stable during most of the reproductive life of the doe, except for the first
kidding (0.13) and for the last rank of kidding (0.15).

Figure 2: Kidding rate (%) and litter size (number of kids born alive or total kids born / kidding) of Creole goats
in Guadeloupe according to the rank of kidding

Variations in the mating and fertility rates according to the kidding interval are
represented in Figure 3. The best results were observed for intervals ranging from 225 to
280 days. The mating and fertility rates reached an optimum of 97 % and 92 %,
respectively. For longer post-partum intervals, the fertility rate decreased (P<0.01), with
more than 10 points of difference for intervals equal or higher than 500 days.
Figure 3: Mating and kidding rate (%) of Creole goats according to the kidding interval

The relationships between performances of two successive kiddings of the same doe are
indicated in Table 4. The litter size (number of kids born alive) of a doe during it’s
kidding number "n + 1", increased with its litter size during its kidding number "n". No
significant differences were observed for the number of still born kids or for the fertility
rate.

Table 4: Reproductive performance of Creole goats in Guadeloupe during


their kidding number "n+1" according to their litter size during their kidding
number "n": mating and fertility rates (%) and prolificacy at birth (number of
alive and dead born kids)
Litter size at kidding number n (alive ≥ 3
0 1 2
born kids) *
Number of kiddings 43 375 845 208

Mating rate ** (%) 89 96 93 98 P<0.01

Fertility rate ** (%) 82 90 90 91 NS


Litter size at kidding number n +1 (kids
1.82 1.86 2.03 2.20 P<0.01
born alive)
Litter size at kidding number n +1 (kids
0.05 0.06 0.05 009 NS
born dead)
* Litter size equal or higher than 3 kids/kidding
** Mating rate = ratio of the number of matings to the number of exposed
females; fertility rate = frequency of exposed females giving birth to kids (dead
and/or alive)

Discussion

We observed classical effects of year and rank of kidding on almost all the variables
studied; on the other hand there was a significant year*season interaction. From one year
to another, different management conditions occurred and that is the reason why analyses
have been carried out on separate parts of the database. Bad management conditions
occurring from 1973 to 1979 (as described in the materials and methods section: grazing
dry pastures, no supplementation and limited preventive health management) induced
low and irregular performances such as 80 % and 198 % for fertility and prolificacy rate,
respectively. In the second phase from 1979 to 1983, all reproductive parameters were
improved (87 and 203 %, respectively), owing to adequate concentrate supply levels. In
fact, good nutritional levels of the does appeared to be responsible for the high
reproductive performances observed, which agrees with what was stated by Lindsay et al
(1993) and by Walkden-Brown and Restall (1996). In the third phase from 1984 to 1988,
irrigated grazing conditions and good reproductive management promoted equally good
results (93 and 191 %, respectively) with short kidding intervals and very few seasonal
variations.

In many parts of the Tropics, natural mating in goats generally occurs with bucks that run
freely with the does all year round or during the once-a-year breeding season. The
sudden introduction of bucks induces fertile cyclic reproductive activity in seasonally
anovulatory does (Chemineau 1987). This technique, termed the male effect, has
considerable potential for the induction of early breeding, the synchronisation of breeding
activity, and possible enhancement of the ovulation rate. The buck effect was very
efficient for the Creole goat under our tropical conditions for the following reasons: (i)
Creole goats are known to have low seasonality of sexual activity (Chemineau 1983),
similar to breeds which originated from tropical and subtropical latitudes (Delgadillo et al
1997); in fact, at tropical latitudes responsiveness to photoperiod is lost or masked and
most indigenous breeds of goats are able to exhibit oestrus cycles year-round; and (ii) in
these environments nutritional and social factors are the major regulators of reproductive
function. In our experimental conditions, does are mated after a flushing period is carried
out thus ensuring they have good body condition, as recommended by Lindsay et al
(1993). Moreover, the mating period lasts for a sufficient time (30 to 45 days of contact)
with a good proportion of teaser males (10 to 15 %) being present.

Information on reproductive performances of does based on the systematic use of the


buck effect is limited. Nevertheless, the performance of the Creole goats seems to be
exceptional. Kidding intervals were short and regular allowing for intensive reproduction
management which resulted in high kidding frequencies (3 kiddings within 2 years)
followed without failures along the whole reproductive career of the does. The fertility
rate was higher than 90 %, comparable with reports for the best tropical breeds such as
the West African Dwarf in Africa (Osuagwuh 1992), the Kambing Katjang in Asia
(Devendra and Burns 1983), the Thai goat reared under intensive feeding (Kochapakdee
et al 1994), the Criollo of Venezuela (Gonzalez-Stagnaro 1983) and the Nubian in
Northern Mexico (Mellado et al 1991). The frequency of multiple births was remarkably
high (greater than 80 % for all sources of variations). Devendra and Burns (1983) in their
exhaustive review on goat reproduction evaluated the Creole goat as a highly prolific
breed. Chemineau (1983, 1986) has studied its reproductive abilities on the physiological
point of view. Our work, based upon long-term animal monitoring, confirms the high
reproductive potential of this local and hardy breed. The prolificacy rate (up to 1.98
kids/kidding) is higher than that of other native or tropical breeds reared in Latin America
(Gonzalez-Stagnaro 1983) or for Nubian goats in Mexico (Mellado et al 1991) and for
local Mexican goats even those up-graded by exotic breeds (Montaldo et al 1995). Our
value is in fact similar to the litter size of 1.93 to 2.25 for the famous Boer goat reported
by Casey et al in 1988.

The mortality rate observed at birth was very low as compared to the frequently high
level recorded for goats in adverse environments (Morand-Fehr et al 1984; Sherman
1987). Only 3 % of the kiddings observed had zero live kids while for 95 % there were
no stillborn kids. In tropical conditions mortality varies according to the viability of the
new-born kids (birthweight and adaptability to post-natal period, as stated by Morand-
Fehr et al 1984 and by Hussain et al 1995), to nutritional level of the does or to their milk
yield (Alexandre 1991; Osuagwuh 1992; Hussain et al 1995) and to disease constraints
that are numerous. So this trait can be considered as very useful for this hardy breed, and
indicates their very good reproductive abilities. On average Creole goats gave birth to a
total of 14.2 live kids from their first mating to their last kidding, 53 months later, i.e.
3.22 live kids per year of reproductive life. It seems that does can be culled after 6
kiddings thus giving the opportunity to apply a 20 % culling rate.

Conclusions

Creole meat goats exhibit very good reproductive abilities - continuous breeding with
high conception rates - provided nutrition and health preventive management are
adequate, which is not very frequent in tropical conditions. The analyses of these data
from a Guadeloupean research station, nonetheless, show the significant effect that
management exerts on reproductive potential of a hardy native breed such as the Creole
goat. Kidding interval has been successfully reduced while fertility and mating rates have
been increased by imposing a regular and efficient "buck effect", and culling policies
based on poor reproductive performances. Litter size at birth was remarkably high while
neonatal mortality was low. Thus there exists considerable scope for improving goat meat
production in the tropics, as we know that the most important requirement of a meat-
producing animal is a consistently high rate of reproduction. On the other hand, this
reproductive potential also makes a strong evidence for goats in the tropics as a milk
producer as was argued in the extensive review of Knights and Garcia (1997).
The main non-genetic effects have been estimated and this allows a well-documented
characterisation of this native breed. More statistical analysis is now being conducted to
determine the genetic parameters of the productive traits in order to define a breed
improvement program. Further studies are required in order to assess levels of
reproductive performances and factors of variation under farm conditions.

Acknowledgments

The authors express thanks to H Borel, V Gartizer, H Mogne-Mali, G Paul-Urbain and to


D Renard for their collaboration and technical assistance. They are also very grateful to
Dr Gary Garcia of the University of the West Indies for the consistent work done in
reviewing the manuscript.

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