My life, my pigeons and my management philosophies.   2 comments

Today I have decided to blog about my health situation. One advantage of having a blog is that friends, family and people in pigeon racing around the world can receive up to date information about me without even contacting me.

Not knowing how ones health will be when one wakes in the morning can be a very frustrating thing and make planning of one’s days and weeks very difficult.

At least the sport of pigeon racing has given me something to get out of bed for all these years in the morning or occasionally the afternoon. Nevertheless, I have always visited the birds daily apart from 2 months when my wife looked after them when I was overseas.

So what is Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. It is an auto immune disease with similar symptoms to other auto immune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Polymyalgia.

My symptoms are long periods of fatigue, body pain including migraines, unrefreshing sleep and intermittent left-sided severe chest pain. Also neuropathies manifesting as numbness in the middle and lower left thoracic region and numbness and burning in the chest, the gums and the jaw.

I have to spend a lot of time resting, either lying down reading, sleeping or watching the occasional tv programme, usually a nature one. On a good day I get down to the loft 3 or 4 times. On a bad day I get down there maybe once. I thought that moving to a lifestyle block in the country in late 2002 would improve my health but it hasn’t and I struggle to look after it and in fact require help to do so.

Currently for the last 2 months we have had a family friend staying who cleans the pigeon lofts out, 3 out of 4 days a week in return for a place to stay.

The pigeons are keeping healthier because of this and certainly helps since this is the first Young Bird season that I have not dosed my youngsters with antimicrobials.

Last year in Old Birds I did not have help and the lofts were probably only cleaned once a week. I would do up to an hour 3 days a week at the most in the race loft. However the bird’s health did not seem to suffer and they weren’t dosed with antimicrobials until after 8 weeks of Old Bird racing. In fact the birds flew their best without the dosing and later in the year when Old Bird racing  comes along again the birds will not be dosed apart from deworming unless a bird needs some form of individual treatment.

I know last year in Old Birds that the birds that I was mainly clocking were 2 year olds which hadn’t been dosed since the end of the 2010 Old Bird season and henceforth must have developed rock solid immunity. Many of these were rung with old 2008 rings (born early 2010) and had just been trained in 2010 to Bulls i.e. about 200 miles. The good hen ‘No toe’ (see other articles) was from this batch of birds. These birds had been given adequate time to grow and develop and were used to having a week of droppings in their sections with no ill effects, even when sometimes after rain the mould grew overnight and signalled a message to self to clean no matter how I was physically for the bird’s welfare sake.

The other reason I think these birds fired in Old Birds 2011 was because I went from a diet of up to 20% raw peanuts a lot of the time to feeding no peanuts at all until after the Timaru Federation race, which incidentally I won with a super performance by a 2 year old BBC in 14 hours and 6 minutes on a very challenging day (see South Island liberations l for a race report and photos). He was ex ‘The big blue cock’ and 219, the now matriarch of the loft.

The reason I had fed so heavy with peanuts for so many years prior to this was that due to the incapacities of health and its deterioration I considered it a waste of time to try to win the short distance races less than 250 miles, although I still certainly won my share! Sprint racing I thought required tossing during the season which I wasn’t able to do that much of myself because of my fragile neurological system which limited driving.

My philosophy had been with peanut feeding that the gradual build up during the Old Bird Season from progressive racing meant the birds reserves would be preserved better for when the racing got longer and harder from the lower North Island or from the South Island.

The reason that I had changed to no peanuts in Old Birds 2011 was that I decided to have a good go at the North Island races (up to 250 miles for me) and that it was cheaper to feed mixed canary seed as the main source of fat since it is half the price per kg and I fed this at 20% of the diet, changing to 30% leading up to the first South Island race, that being Ward, an approximate distance of 330 miles to me.

This Young Birds after a steady Mahoe race i.e. 3 hours 25 minutes to me and in the 1000 m/min I decided to add peanuts to the diet again as this year the birds had entered the body moult earlier (cooler Summer nights) and needed the extra protein and fat to handle both this stress and the stress of racing (see the previous article for results and pictures).

I think for Old Birds later in the year I will feed some peanuts at a low-level i.e. 3 to 5% of the mix. Peanuts are an appetite stimulant and the very good partnership of the late John McNeil and his son Dwayne used them at times as such. Remember their super widowhood cock 1090.

Some birds don’t go well on peanuts especially at 20% of the mix which is why ‘No toe’ was never first to the loft from training on the Auckland Federation big truck in 2010,  as she’s a big hen and puts on weight easily. However on no peanuts with the mixed canary seed instead and letting the hens out every second day for  6 to 8 hours meant that with racing every week she got super fit and often left the opposition in her dust.

It is a pity that I can’t race her any more but I want to think of the future of the loft as it is how one can gradually improve the birds and improve the number of good and very good and hopefully be blessed with an outstanding bird. I will note that often the best racers don’t breed a lot of good or better birds (fallow generation principle) but that their children do and that is why I haven’t let the pair of latebred squeakers that I bred off her (‘No toe’) out as I want to breed off most of her children. I and others have found that it is with the grand children where you often get the birds that are the very good or better performance racers.

By placing plenty of youngsters off these key birds (e.g. off ‘No toe’) into the stock loft and sacrificing their racing we can progeny test them as breeders and in a period of several years find some ‘super couplings’ hopefully. Then if the key birds are lost e.g. there was an unexpected death, then we would still have plenty of their blood to improve the lofts genetics.

I have basically done this ever since I got back into the sport in the 1989 breeding season and won both the 1990 Futurity West Section from Levin and the 1st three in the  Western Union Young Bird Classic from Otaki. Vandie BCH AAK 1989 number 64 won that Futurity race and turned out a goldmine breeder for me. I still have her blood as the basis of the Vandie blood and her full sister 319 is a grtgrt grand dam of Mac Armstrong’s Invercargill winner i.e. 780 miles through a Foxton breaking point taking a little under two full days last year in 2011.

Michael Smith raced this 319 in 1991 when I shifted to his mother’s place in Waterview and we both had our own lofts. It was his first bird virtually every week and when he left a year later he wanted it of course, however I kept it knowing how good the blood was and it turns out that I was right.

Those Vandies were under rated and although the imports had their impact in the early 1990’s when they came in particularly in the North Island races to Auckland the Vandies I would have to say are the best all round pigeons that I have ever had.

Now that I have blended them into what I have left of the bloodlines of imports from the 1990’s it is a bit like forging some strong aerospace alloy. What I desire to forge with my breeding are birds that are dual purpose birds of stamina, good at any distance, good on bright and overcast days, highly disease resistant with very strong yet very light bones and capable of excellence at fast, medium and slow velocities, birds that will break at the right time often and not scared to fly by themselves and leave the opposition behind. I don’t ask much, do I?))

To quote the internet site ‘Titanium Alloys are selected for applications requiring high strength‚ low weight‚ high operating temperature or high corrosion resistance’. So there are some similarities there with the breeding of better racing pigeons.

The future of pigeon racing is breeding and superior genetics. Sure in the shorter fast races especially in Young Birds the birds can overfly a lot especially for the Federation front markers and it is a lot harder still for Brian Batchelor over there in Elstead, England with liberations going up from all sorts of directions and not to forget the raptor problems causing havoc on any liberation whether training or racing.

Terry Williams has just emailed me again from England and I invite readers to check out his site at especially the home page, latest news and the videos viewed ‘at the movies’.

Posted April 24, 2012 by ferguselley in Breeding better pigeons, Ferg's birds

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2 responses to “My life, my pigeons and my management philosophies.

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  1. That really is awesome to read your story on racing pigeons I enjoyed this very much , keep up the good work

  2. I happened on this blog looking for information about breeding racing pigeons. Thanks for Google , I enjoyed your story and had to come back today and read more of your writings . I find in interesting and your long distance flying pigeons are great. The long distance racing is where I have the most trouble with my birds , say the 500 miles is always a tough race for me. Thanks for sharing and I hope to learn a few tips as far as long distance pigeon flying goes.

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