‘I know’ or ‘I do not know’ people often say when communicating. But even the things that we think we know are not always true which may cause misunderstandings, also in pigeon sport. Therefore fanciers should always ask themselves questions. When the moment has come that they think there is nothing to learn any more that may be the beginning of the end. Most of what we know is based on our own experience or on what we have learnt. Knowledge that we gathered from our ‘own experience’ is most trustful. Furthermore we practise a sport that is always changing. There come new medicines, new diseases, new methods, new champions and so on. These things force us to think and sometimes to reconsider things.
In Western Europe the so-called ‘young bird disease’ (in the pigeon press often referred to as adeno/coli) was a real plague for over a decade. But three years ago there was good news, as it seemed. It looked as if the disease was no longer a big problem, that is also what I wrote, and fanciers were happy, as this nightmare seemed to be history indeed. Unfortunately we were all wrong. In the spring of this year (2004) coli/adeno has struck many lofts again, sometimes in a devastating way. Now many people wonder if there is anything they can do to prevent an outbreak. Unfortunately the answer is negative; there is nothing that will protect your birds for sure. The good news is that there are ways to reduce chances that they get sick. Hence I have the following pieces of advice.
HOW TO REDUCE RISKS
a. Have the birds ‘trichomoniasis-free’ the whole year round as a canker infection opens the gate to all kinds of other diseases especially… E coli.
b. Vaccinate babies against PMV as young as possible. In the past it was said that this only should be done with older birds but scientists changed their minds. It may be done at an age of four weeks. Birds that are vaccinated real young will be less vulnerable.
c. It may sound strange but it seems better not to be too hygienic. Birds kept in lofts that are cleaned and disinfected frequently will get E Coli more often than others, which is also proven by research done in Germany. It appears to be a matter of immunity.
d. Be careful with vitamins. Coli attacks the liver and if you overdo with vitamins you may harm the liver as well. One may wonder why E coli is such a big problem in Western Europe and not in countries like South Africa, Scotland and so on. Most probably it is because of the abuse of antibiotics of all sorts. In countries where they do not know the medicine (yet) they do not know about the diseases either. The use of cortisone in particular seems to undermine the natural resistance.
e. Avoid stress and even more overpopulation. In the past many vets assumed that vinegar in the drinker might be preventive, as acids would stop the bacteria to flourish. Vinegar became popular but… in was found to be ineffective.
When a bird has won a race the question people often ask is about the total entry. That is kind of normal, but the assumption that a winner in a competition of say 10,000 birds is better than a winner against say 500 birds is wrong. As for winning there are two factors that play an important role.
a. The weather conditions.
b. The strength of the competition. Due to the weather circumstances numerous pigeons have no chance whatsoever as I stated in a previous article. If a race is held with strong west wind it is a mission impossible for birds that belong to fanciers that live in the west. And there is the strength of the competition. I know about a club where one fancier enters 150 plus birds every race, a club mate also enters over 100 and so does a third one. So it may happen that in a race with an entry of say 700 birds there is only 8 or 10 fanciers maximum. Those fanciers basket ‘anything that can move’. They do not care whether the birds are fit or not, neither if they have quality or not. In some other areas it is the opposite. There fanciers only race their very best birds that are in super shape. This may result in a race for which say 200 fanciers enter 700 birds. Naturally that is quite a different story than a race of 700 birds that are entered by 8 fanciers only. Now you may understand why there are winners of only some 100s of birds that I would prefer to winners against 1000s of birds. One can say that the best pigeons can be found in those areas where many fanciers together enter few birds. Where few fanciers enter many birds, competition is poor. Of course the winner of 10,000 birds has a higher commercial value than a winner of 500 but nevertheless… the latter may be better.
And what about National Aces?
Is the National Ace bird of Holland also Holland’s best bird? This may not be the case for several reasons. Once more it is easier to get great results in areas where competition is poor and furthermore in many areas both in Holland and Belgium fanciers simply have no chance to have a National Ace due to the fact that there are not enough birds in the races. This is often the case where competition is strong, as fanciers only race their best birds. In 2001Mr. Boeckx from Belgium had a bird that won 7 firsts and naturally a bird cannot do better than win. ‘This will be the National Ace’ I thought, as a bird cannot do better than win, isn’t it? Mr. Boeckx however had his doubts, as he was not able to race against many birds and he was right. The bird ended 4th. The point is that a pigeon that wins a 5th prize against 2,100 birds has a better coefficient than a bird that wins 1st against 400 birds. Furthermore there is another very important thing to consider: To get a title both in Holland and Belgium fanciers themselves have to send in the results but… not every body does that. Some people are older, others do not read a pigeon magazine or do not know the rules or … they simply are not interested.
As for the National Championships (loft results) the same story again. Where competition is poor it is easier to excel and (again) many fanciers do not send in their results to KBDB or NPO. As for Holland in several combines the computer does the job for them but not everywhere. Also for the loft championships many face the problem of a small entry. In the north of Holland there are races in which up to 35,000 birds compete, whereas in the south 1,000 birds is a nice entry. A guy that wins 1st, 2nd and 3rd against 1,000 birds did worse according to the calculations, than a guy that won 13th, 24th and 29th against 15,000 birds. But the first one cannot help it that there were no more birds in the race nor can he get a better result than he already did. As for Belgium there is something else; in order to give the ‘small fanciers’ that only own few birds a chance, only the first two picked birds count. But what do some fanciers who own many pigeons do? They enter birds in different combines every week. So the man that can only have one race because he has few birds can only have one good result. Fanciers that own many birds can compete in different clubs every weekend which enhances their chances for at least one good result.
TRUE OR NOT?
Especially novices tend to think that if you cross a good Long Distance bird to a good Short Distance bird you can automatically get good Middle Distance birds. They also think that you can make long distance birds faster by mating them to short distance birds. They are wrong in both cases. ‘Fond birds’ should be mated to ‘fond birds’ and ‘sprint birds’ to ‘sprint birds’. Of course I know about long distance racers that successfully crossed their strain with short distance birds. ‘Patrick’ from Vanhee, that was a half Janssen, is an example and there are more but… These are exceptions.
In Western Europe the champions focus either on short distance, on middle distance, or on long distance. So they make a choice, as they know this is the only way to be successful. Those who want to be champions from all distances are bound to fail, as it is one thing or the other, just like in other sports. Though long distance is getting more popular by far the greater part of the fanciers still fancy short and middle distance. As for the Belgians it is said that 80 percent never races further than Quievrain that is about 100 kilometres more or less. Bad for them but it is long distance that gets most attention in the media. That is why it is wrong to think that the names you come across in the papers or on the Internet are the names of the champions.
FAME AND QUALITY
What I want to say is that many champions do not get the publicity they deserve since they do not race the nationals (long distance) which leads to the conclusion that in our sport fame is another thing than being good. Sometimes I show foreigners race results, not in order to pull great names down but to open eyes. Their eyes are not only opened then, they are popping out when they face the truth. Their problem is that for their knowledge they depend on the media, the written press in most cases and unfortunately not all press men are neutral or objective, neither in Holland or Belgium, nor abroad. Some reporters are so called ‘commission hunters’. If they make a report about ‘X’ this ‘X’ will give them commission of the birds he sells. And as the press can only survive by the ads they get one can imagine that other funny things happen. Finally there are more champions than you might think that reject any publicity. The reason is that they do not want visitors that want their birds, as they are not interested in money. But it is often from men like these that you can get the best birds for little money. How to find them and get their birds? That is the art of a champion. Naturally that is easier for locals than for foreigners as locals are better informed. After having read this it may be clear why so many are not successful with the birds they buy; they are not well informed in the best case and mislead in the worst.