Mac Armstrong’s pigeon team are Invercargill Kings Again!   Leave a comment

Introduction.

The Annual Auckland Federation Invercargill race is from the bottom of the South Island to Auckland near the top of the North Island and to Mac Armstrong’s loft is a distance of around 780 miles through a lower North Island Foxton breaking point. To fly the Invercargill to Auckland race on the day the birds have to take a fairly direct line of flight across the Southern Alps which are snow peaked all year round rising to 3754 meters and secondly they need to make the Cook Straight sea crossing between the Island’s.

Mac’s pigeons have won this race the last 4 years viz 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2008 it was a very hard one with Mac’s bird the only bird in race time. In 2009 his winning birds made it on the day. In 2010 the winning birds arrived late in the morning of the second day. Finally in 2011 the winning bird arrived in the evening of the second day.

In fact in 2009 Mac Armstrong won and had three on the day and showed that this was no fluke by winning in the 2010 event 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. In 2011 Mac Armstrong’s pigeons were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th.

Mac is a great advocate for long distance racing and has encouraged many others to have a go at the Invercargill race. Mac’s family of pigeons originated from some imports from John Hansen’s Blenhaven stud (Australia) in the mid 1990’s and were Janssens and Buschaerts, however these have been worked hard and through strict selection been moulded into Mac’s own world-class family of distance pigeons that would take some beating anywhere.

Mac certainly lives for the long distance and he finds like many fanciers the world around that being with the pigeons is very therapeutic. Watching them take a bath or a couple of cocks fighting, observing the social interactions, just fills him with a sense of calm and well-being. He says he comes out of the loft reenergised.

Why I think Mac is so successful in winning the Annual ARPF Invercargill.

To win this race 4 seasons in a row is ‘no mean feat’ and certainly not luck or chance.

Mac does aim for this race above all the other races on the race programme. Everything is set up to achieve that first place and nothing is left to chance. I believe the saying ‘nothing good comes easy’ applies here and despite the fact that Mac is an Octagenerian he and his team of pigeons  have been able to leave the opposition behind in their dust.

Mac does send a decent sized team but I believe that it certainly isn’t numbers sent, rather it is many, many other reasons. However, others are entitled to their opinions.

Mac is a very humble and delightful man and I’m sure would give all the credit to his team of pigeons. Mac went into last years Invercargill race not confident and although we can call Mac and his team of winners and place getters Kings, he might not say that he also is.

The number of top prizes including the 1st and 2nd prizes the last 3 years is just something truly exceptional in my book and leaves a challenge to all of us for many a year.

Race Preparation.

Mac gives his birds a lot of open lofts and loves to see his birds free flying particularly when they’re darting around the sky full of energy. Cocks out one day the hens the next.

Mac spends up to five hours in the pigeon loft a day mainly looking at the birds. He doesn’t handle them as a rule. He observes them very keenly. He keeps meticulous records of all their races and other details.

Mac normally starts the season with about 80 birds to race and keeps the cocks and hens separate and flies to the perch. He would rather send to the perch than pair because then there’s no risk of trouble with too many flights dropping or little babies and the birds are much calmer in the basket.

Mac never sends yearlings or latebreds to Invercargill. Instead he chooses to send 2 years and older pigeons (in their 3rd year) and he particularly likes 4 to 5 year old hens. Mac has an aviary for hens. The cocks when out can see the hens through the slats and Mac wonders if he should block the view of the cocks to hens.

Indeed as the longer races draw nearer and the weather becomes warmer some of the cocks seem to get very frisky as if they were widowhood cocks, even though they aren’t on widowhood. I expect that this is a good health indicator and a very mild form of incentive.

Build up races to Invercargill.

Mac likes to get them to Ward and at least one Christchurch prior to the main event.

In 2011 the birds had the slow and steady Ward race (around 360 miles) and 2 weeks later the 1st Christchurch on the race programme. It was a relatively easy one. Christchurch is around 480 miles to Mac’s loft. After a 10 day or so rest and loft flying until they were darting around again the birds had 5 or 6 fifty milers over the next 3 weeks including one on the Monday prior to the Wednesday night basketing. Seeing that the birds were held over to the following Tuesday it would have been a very good pipe opener and retained the muscle condition and physical fitness in the basket.

These 50 milers were normally around 4pm to 5pm from Huntly. Mac releases the birds in ones and two’s to simulate what hopefully may occur whilst returning home alone from Invercargill on the day in the last few hours of the day. Although the line he hopes the birds would take home when racing is about 20 km further west, Mac believes the birds see these sorts of landmarks i.e. Huntly’s twin Power Station chimneys from a very long way away. Mac says that from 1000 feet pigeons can see a pea i.e. a wild pigeon. Mac is quite prepared to take his time letting the birds up to head off alone. This is part of his ‘not leaving a stone unturned’ philosophy in his quest for excellence.

Mac’s Invercargill pigeons are not let out for the 2 days prior to the Invercargill basketing night to allow rest and the building up of reserves for the race and time away from home in the basket. Mac could send more pigeons to the Invercargill race but only believes in sending them if they are 100% right. Hence the old adage, ‘If in doubt, leave them out!’

2011 Invercargill winner.

This was a rising 3 year Blue Barr cock which was often Macs 1st or 2nd bird to the loft when racing. This cock was clocked at 6.04pm on the second day, one hour and 36 minutes ahead of his next two birds which scored 2nd and 3rd. The parents of this winner were from myself and he is 7/8th’s Janssen and 1/8 Vandie. His Greatgrandfather a Vandie Cock 423 won the National Open from Christchurch to Auckland in 1994 for me. The Janssens are a mixture of all my best lines. The parents of the 2011 Invercargill winner were very good, exceptional racers for me i.e. winners themselves. He is linebred 31% if the pedigree is examined to the sixth generation taking him as the first generation. 19% of this is to the Janssen BBH 71, a Fountainhead Janssen cock x a Jimmy Eaton Janssen hen. This was a different line to the early 90’s imports. The other 12% is the ‘Blenhaven Cock’ 2893, a National Ace/Vos Cock and prepotent breeder of racers and many excellent stock birds. The 2011 Invercargill winner is just over 50% Blenhaven Stud Janssens in bloodlines.

Feeding Methods.

Mac doesn’t need to feed peanuts instead he uses the Colin Walker oil often on the food when the birds are being prepared for their long distance events.

Feeding throughout the year for every race week in old birds is the following. In general Mac feeds small grains after the race for several days to rest the system. He sources his grain from many areas and countries as possible to allow for different mineral contents of soils. It is the quality of the grain that is important and not the price. Nice and clean too.

Day 1 Sunday – a mix of sunflower, safflower, canary, wheat, sorghum, hulled oats, linseed and millet is fed 3 to 4 times a day.

Day 2 Monday – a mix of barley, safflower, wheat and sorghum is fed 3 to 4 times a day.

Day 3 Tuesday – starts with Mondays mix and from lunchtime peas and beans are added.

Day 4 Wednesday – small maize 25% (with a good germ), green peas, maple peas -(peas  25% total) – wheat, barley, sorghum, sunflower and safflower 10% each (remaining 50%).

Mac also hopper feeds dark brown not black tic beans (small to medium 1cm long) which are purchased direct from the South Island with Andrew Fry’s help.

In the off-season Mac feeds mainly peas and beans especially to his youngsters. The bulk of these are bred from January until early April including those off his best distance birds.

Final thoughts until the next article on Mac.

Always be thorough and show attention to detail. Don’t take short cuts.

Know what you are aiming for and be determined to reach the goal, don’t give up.

Breed off your best race birds at the end of the season and know when to place a bird permanently in the stock loft.

Be very careful and don’t enter a bird to the long distance event unless it’s perfectly right.

Use minimal medicine, preferably just treatment for internal parasites 4 times a year unless there is an individual bird health problem, then treat that bird for what it has. Solid immunity is a must for the rigours of racing and although in some countries vaccinations may be required for the likes of PMV don’t prop the birds up with medicines or you may come unstuck. 800 milers need to be very tough.

Be patient each year in educating the team for future years so that very experienced and well-trained birds are entered for these around 800 mile events or don’t bother entering.

You don’t have to feed peanuts to win the long distance events but some fat is required and plenty of protein and hopper feeding of tic beans is very good.

Perch pigeons seem to do better at these extreme distances and especially for the 5 day or more holdovers.


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