We investigated whether undernutrition during the second half of pregnancy impaired the behaviour of does and their kids at parturition and early mutual recognition. Twenty-two control and 22 underfed mixed-breed, multiparous dairy goats were used, together with their respective kids (control, n = 31: nine singles, 16 twins and six triplets; underfed, n = 32: 11 singles, 18 twins and three triplets). Undernutrition involved limiting protein and energy intake at 70% of the nutritional requirements for maintenance and foetal growth from day 70 of pregnancy until birth. The behaviour of mothers and their two first-born kids was observed for 90 min from the birth of each kid. Maternal olfactory recognition of the kid was assessed at 4 h post partum by testing selective nursing behaviour. Non-olfactory recognition was assessed at 8 h in a two-choice test excluding olfactory cues. In kids, preference for the mother was assessed in a two-choice test at either 12 or 24 h post partum. Bodyweight of does and kids were lower in the underfed group up to 2 weeks post partum. At parturition, licking, maternal bleating frequency and latency to nursing did not differ between nutritional groups. Control kids were faster than underfed kids to stand, search for and reach the udder, but underfed kids bleated more and tended to spend more time at the udder. Both control and underfed does accepted their own kid and rejected the alien in the selectivity test at 4 h. In contrast, at 8 h post partum, only control goats showed a significant preference for their own kid in the non-olfactory recognition test. Both control and underfed kids showed a preference for their own mother at 12 and 24 h and undernutrition during pregnancy had little influence on the performance of kids. However, 12 h-old underfed kids tended to be less active than control kids and visited their own mothers less than control kids. There were no significant correlations between the behaviour of the mother or of the kid at parturition and their performance in the discrimination tests. Overall, undernutrition in the second half of pregnancy appears to be more detrimental for the behaviour of the mother than for the kid. Furthermore, it has more impact on the establishment of maternal non-olfactory recognition than on maternal care at parturition or the establishment of maternal selectivity.