The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of activin-A during the in vitro oocyte maturation (IVM) and in vitro embryo culture (IVC) on nuclear maturation, blastocyst yield and blastocyst quality of prepubertal goat oocytes. In Experiment 1, three groups of oocytes were used during the IVM of prepubertal goat oocytes to determine the optimal concentration of recombinant human activin-A added to the maturation medium. Cumulus–oocyte complexes were matured in an IVM medium containing 0, 10 and 100 ng/ml (groups A0, A10 and A100), fertilized and in vitro cultured using standard procedures. In Experiment 2, the addition of 10 ng/ml activin-A at IVM (A10A0), IVC (A0A10) or IVM+IVC (A10A10) was studied and compared with the control group (A0A0). Results of the first experiment demonstrated that the addition of activin-A yielded similar percentages of maturation (⩽71.0%) and blastocyst formation rates (⩽24.9%) than the control group (A0). Experiment 2 showed that exposure of prepubertal goat oocytes to an IVC medium containing 10 ng/ml activin-A (A0A10) significantly increased the rates of development to the blastocyst stage, as compared with the control group (A0A0) (19.5±2.21% v. 13.1±2.37%, respectively; P<0.05). With regard to the blastocyst quality, total number of cells, inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm of prepubertal goat embryos produced in the presence of activin-A did not differ significantly among experimental groups. In summary, these results indicate that supplementation of the IVC medium with activin-A enhances embryo development of prepubertal goat oocytes.