Interesting as well (March 16th)
A lot of people had travelled from far and wide to the pigeon forum in Middelbeers in the south of the Netherlands and that was not really surprising. When fanciers like Koopman, Verkerk, Dr. Schroeder and Vercammen are present, you don't have just any forum. The audience had little new to learn because they were already champions, but that is fairly common with forums. People complain about the dominance of the champions, and then there is a forum where something can be learned, and who do you see there? Yes indeed, the better racers. A few weeks earlier there had been a similar meeting in Beerse, Belgium, only with different fanciers on the forum, and ... their opinions were mostly the same as those of the champions in Middelbeers. Which is always nice. Nothing is more confusing for the average fancier than 'experts' who have different opinions. I was the leader in both forums and I found them interesting. A summary below.
BIRDS OF PREY
One of the topics was how to keep away birds of prey. The fancier asking the question was desperate. He had tried everything but all of his efforts had been in vain.
Birds of prey are indeed becoming a nightmare for many. The bad news is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can be done about them. There are countless products for sale that are supposed to keep the birds away, even C.D.'s, but these have only one function: to relieve the fancier of his money. Some take drastic measures, so that very quickly there are a few less flying around, but when you are a law abiding citizen you'd better not do that.
Racing with hens is in fashion, also with the forum members it turned out. How can the hens hold their own against the cocks, they wanted to know.
Taken over an entire season the differences are not so big; sometimes the cocks return home first, at other times the hens. What does become evident is the hens win considerably more prizes; it looks like they are more consistent.
It was said that Gerard Koopman’s pigeons ARE FORCED to exercise 5 hours each day, and that he takes them to France for training several times.
They have to exercise a lot is true, Gerard replied, but the stories are exaggerated. They usually fly about 2 times 2 - 3 hours a day, which of course is still quite a lot. Because the cocks, hens and youngsters all have to exercise, it keeps him busy the whole day. But then, Koopman is a professional. And indeed, he does drive his pigeons three times a year towards the French border, and for him that means a trip of 340 kilometres there and back. They are released TOGETHER, and the intention is to 'loosen' the muscles up a bit more, like athletes do. The racing program in his Combine has something to do with it as well. In the program, the long-distance racers are hardly taken into account and the jump in distance between races is too big.
A few years ago, 'Het grote Azijnboek' ('The big Vinegar book') was published. Vinegar was said to be good against almost anything, and when you read it, you'd almost think that it would be your own fault if you didn't live to be at least 125 years old. You should have just drunk more apple vinegar. Also with apple vinegar, you were supposed to create a condition inside the body of a pigeon, in which Coli bacteria wouldn't thrive. So half of the pigeon world started tipping apple vinegar into the drinking water. Was this justified?
Personally, I was sceptical as usual, but I couldn't resist trying it out. I gave half of my pigeon’s apple vinegar, and what did I see? The pigeons that drank water with apple vinegar were free from canker from that moment on. Because other fanciers have had the same experience I asked Dr. Schroeder 'his thoughts'. He had noticed the same, and so had other vets. When they examined pigeons that were free from canker, they often heard that the fancier used a lot of apple vinegar. Besides, ordinary vinegar can also be used, and that is cheaper as well. The Belgian vet underlined that it has no effect if you only give the vinegar one day a week; it has to be a 'treatment' and can even be given daily, but not during the racing season. Against Coli (and that was the intention in the first place) it hardly has any effect, something Peter van der Merwe also observed. One year, he gave his youngsters apple vinegar, and he never had such problems as that year. I think that in regard to the usefulness of apple vinegar against Coli, everyone repeated and copied everyone else. Furthermore garlic seems to have the same negative effect on canker than vinegar.
VITAMINS: You know my views about vitamins; pigeons don't need them. The members of the forum didn't believe in them either, and in more and more scientific articles you can read that vitamins might be doing more harm than good. Vet H de Weerd is also sceptical. "I sell vitamins because customers want them, but I strongly question their value," said the vet from Breda, Holland. Vet Schroeder also stated that vitamins are pointless even after a treatment with antibiotics, in contrast with what you read everywhere. Vitamin E could possibly be beneficial during breeding, but that is also not certain. Amino acids however are of great importance. So what about all these stories about vitamins, and schedules? Forget them quickly!
TEA, OMEGA, CARNITINE AND SHEEP FAT
These are all controversial feeding supplements, the champions and the vets in both forums were clear about this. They didn't believe in them.
None of them gave their pigeons tea; if it was to have any value then it would only be given as a treatment over several days. One day a week, like apple vinegar, is pointless and not advisable during the racing season. Omega and Carnitine are fashion products. Koopman, as is well known, is a fan of peanuts and sheep fat. But only of good quality, the liquid variety is not good. For that matter, he only considers these supplements useful for the LONGER distances.
Training with pigeons in between races is another topic that fanciers talk about and where opinions differ. The Belgian champion Jochems van Hasselt has recently started racing with hens. The hens are barely released during the week, but he drives with them. Vanlint drives quite a lot; while Serge van Elsacker says that he had done so for a year, but will never do it again. Driving is also not for van der Merwe, Claessens and recently de Bruyn.
The forum members didn't believe in it, Verkerk only drives after a bad race to restore the self confidence of his pigeons. "Driving or not" also fascinated vet Schroeder. Therefore he asked all the champions among his customers if they drove with their pigeons during the week. As it turned out, half of them did indeed drive. Thus it remains controversial, although they thought that it could be beneficial for the speed races.
Because there are so few or, better still, no super pigeons with brothers and sisters that are equally good, I often write that I don't believe in real breeding couples.
Verkerk doesn't believe in them either, that's why he re-couples often, according to Gerard Koopman real breeding couples are as rare as ‘White Ravens’. Koopman had one himself once, the parents of the 'Kleine Dirk'. "Maybe every decade there is a real breeding couple in an entire county?" supposes Gerard. Klak always said that he'd never had a super breeding pair, but his 'Vechter' x 'Witpenneke' came close.
Another question was if you could do without antibiotics in the present day pigeon sport.
For the speed races with one night in the basket it could maybe be possible without antibiotics, but for the middle-distance and the one day long-distance races it is doubtful. Koopman thinks that you could have ONE good year without antibiotics, but not 10 in a row.
Besides, ‘swollen heads’ is not an illness but a symptom of no form. Pigeons that are out of form are set upon by others, and fighting causes the swollen heads.
When I suggested to vet Schroeder that Haarlemmerolie * and crushed garlic on the nose shells helps because the smell makes the other pigeons less eager to peck at them, he nodded in agreement. Moreover, pigeons lose their form more and more often because of fungi and that is the result of too much antibiotics, or damp straw.
Of course, the lofts were also discussed.
The ideal loft doesn't exist because our climate is so changeable. You should try to be able to take as much control as possible, so that you can intervene when the weather changes drastically. Heating-elements can be useful, but they are dangerous when there is not enough ventilation. Koopman tries to get warmth into the loft in a natural way, and to retain it before an important race.
Not believing in vinegar and vitamins or tea raised the question which feeding supplements they did consider relevant.
The answer was to be expected; grit, but ... according to the pigeon doctor that includes stomach grit, which is rarely the case. And then of course there was Koopman with his sheep fat. Verkerk reckons Forta Vita is a good product and ... that was about all. So just a few products, a stark contrast to the packed shelves in the specialist pet shops.
When we were confronted with paramyxo for the first time, the NPO wanted under pressure of the Ministry, to enforce a twice yearly inoculation. This was reduced to once a year, but what resulted?
Countless fanciers inoculate pigeons that are not used for racing only once in their entire life, and they have no problems at all.
If once is enough, we are throwing away a lot of money for nothing. Millions of Euros!
Vet Schroeder also thinks that inoculating each year is unnecessary, and a waste of money but he doubts if once in a pigeon's life gives enough immunity. Twice would certainly be enough. The first time they should be inoculated as a young pigeon and the second time as a yearling. Inoculating during weaning is too early. Young birds should be about two months old.
Someone had seen a pure Janssen for sale on the Internet and also a pure Vandenabeele and he asked if a cross between the two would be a guaranteed success. Someone else had seen a red pigeon out of two chequered parents, and asked if that was possible.
The first question was easily answered. No coupling is a guarantee for success. And the red pigeon out of two chequered birds? That was not possible.
The audience wanted to know more about those drops of which it was said that one drop on the body of a pigeon would kill lice and also get rid of worms.
These drops are certainly effective, but are strongly advised against during the racing season. Pigeons should be made lice free before the start of the season.
The panel members were asked what kind of pigeon they would choose if they had the choice. Without exception they would leave the selection to the breeder. Champions themselves also feel less comfortable when they have a few young for a fancier to choose from, and the man says: "I leave the choice to you". It is clear why: ‘With trust comes responsibility’. * Haarlemmerolie is old fashioned stinky stuff that our grandparents used in the past for little children that had lice.