CABRIOLAIT - Exploratory project

CABRIOLAIT - Alternatives to artificial feeding in goat farms: effects on behaviour, the microbiota, health and milk quality

[Project] : Alternatives to artificial feeding in goat farms: effects on behaviour, the microbiota, health and milk quality

Contexte et enjeux

On the great majority of dairy goat farms, kids are separated from their mothers at birth. This is mainly for health reasons as this prevents the transmission of caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAEV) or paratuberculosis from the mother to offspring, as well as that of pathogenic zoonotic agents (diarrhoeal Escherichia coli) that are likely to contaminate dairy products destined for human consumption. However, this early separation has raised scientific and societal questions in recent years regarding the damage it causes to animal welfare. In this context, changes to practices have been observed recently on organic farms (favouring maternal feeding, even if partial), which resulted in the farmers who dared to make this transition being more satisfied. However, the benefits and drawbacks in the medium and longer terms regarding the welfare and health of goats (social enrichment, benefits of maternal milk and microbiota, and the pathogens transmitted by the dam), as well as the health risks to products, remain poorly understood.


The Cabriolait project, which comprises four tasks, aims to identify the benefits and risks of three livestock systems: conventional artificial feeding, the presence of adult, non-milking dams (companions) with the kids, or maternal feeding. The benefits will be measured in terms of social enrichment, behavioural facilitation through the imitation of adults, construction of the microbiome, and improvements to welfare and certain aspects of kid health. The risks associated with the transmission of pathogens from adults to kids will be assessed over the long term, from birth to the preparation for breeding of kids and their first two lactations. The challenge will be to achieve an optimum situation in an equation that takes account of respect for animal welfare, compliance with essential health regulations, the constraints arising from the choice of a particular practice and the work satisfaction of breeders.

  • Behaviour. This will be monitored through the direct observation of kids in order to measure the influence of companions/dams on the time budget and their more rapid acquisition of a solid diet by imitating adults. The reaction of kids to weaning from a milk diet and to the removal of companions/dams will also be analysed, as will that of the adults. Finally, after weaning, we shall evaluate the influence of early experiences on the emotional reactivity of kids, their aptitude for socialisation and their reactions to humans.
  • Welfare and health. A global assessment of kid welfare will be made before and after weaning. This will be associated with the recording of any clinical signs observed in both young and adult animals. Particular attention will be paid to key goat diseases such as CAEV and paratuberculosis that are likely to appear during subsequent years. The incidence of intra-mammary infections will help to assess mammary health in suckling dams, insofar as suckling can cause teat lesions.
  • Animal husbandry. Kid growth will be monitored routinely, as will the milk production of mothers and their daughters once the latter have reached adulthood. In terms of milk, particular attention will be paid to quantitative (volume) and qualitative aspects (fats, proteins, urea, cells and cell concentrations).
  • Microbiota. The evolution of bacterial communities in terms of diversity and composition will be monitored by analysing the gut microbiota of kids from birth to adulthood. This monitoring will also include an analysis of faecal samples from each dam before delivery, and from the companion animals, in order to determine the incidence of transmission from adults to kids. Particular attention will be paid to E. coli.

Species concerned



(forthcoming integration)

Contacts - coordinators :

(forthcoming integration)

See also

  • Download the project information sheet (forthcoming)

Modification date: 06 March 2024 | Publication date: 14 August 2023 | By: Com