Summer Lovin’   1 comment

A 'pigeon pair' icon of the 70's.

A ‘pigeon pair’ icon of the 70’s. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Brian Batchelor of Elstead U.K. has emailed me recently telling me about what a wretched winter it has been over there in England. Oh well, the English cricket fans will be happy they drew the test series yesterday against our kiwi team here at Eden Park, Auckland. Brian tells me he won’t be racing until about mid May, a wise choice given the amount of snow they’ve had and difficulties getting the pigeons out enough, yet alone training them! Brian is an old fox at the pigeon game and knows that ‘thumping’ the pigeons at the start of the season doesn’t ‘bode well’ for a good season. He’s a very keen distance man and he’ll be patient.

While Brian’s lost several nests of eggs and little squabs to the cold, possibly due to foxes disturbing the sitting hens at night, it’s been a glorious breeding season for me over here. As mentioned in recent blogs I didn’t pair up until November, the last month of Spring here so that by Christmas I had only about 20 youngsters, all December hatch. We have had really dry conditions over here all of 2013 and it has been excellent for breeding, very nice warm weather.

I’m not racing any of the current Young Bird races here in Auckland. It’s nice to have a break. It makes me wonder why we don’t combine the Young and Old Bird seasons like Australia and have a later ring issue than the current 1st of August here in NZ. It’s often cold, rainy and windy here in July and August and I can remember many years ago when Young Bird racing meant much more to me pairing the pigeons up the last week of June! The first round hatching 7 to 10 days from the end of July never contained anywhere as many good pigeons as the next two rounds. Food for thought.

I’ll possibly race Young Birds again next year. My pick is that here in NZ there’ll be Young Bird racing from late February or early March for many more years to come unless the global warming situation continues to worsen at a quicker rate than expected. The causes of extremes of weather in Summer and Winter around the world is certainly something that we can all do a little something about but possibly the damage has already been done. Perhaps it will be all a little too late and is a bit like ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’.

Next month might be the start of the regular wet Autumn weather for pigeon racing. If the Young Bird Futurity at the end of April is a wet and pretty windy one like last year’s I’d expect a similar story for returns on the day. Last year we’d had no stormy races the whole season and about 2/3rds of the entries made a meal of things and didn’t return home until the next day. Fortunately losses were kept to a minimum to the best of my knowledge e.g. I dropped 1 of 9, a bird although well bred which I should have culled in the nest as the flights stayed in the quills a long time. Anyway it had been given a chance.

I think in general if you want to do well in Young Birds here in NZ that the more late July to September hatches that you have in the team the better. It just gives them a chance to develop more and basically learn their geography and hone their orientation skills. I would say that if you are able to train your pigeons, that wherever you are in the world the more small group tossing and single ups that you can do on the line of flight the better. Early on in my pigeon racing career I did a lot of these short tosses and three ups and single ups. I don’t have the health to do this now. However, you the reader may be able to drive whenever you like, so get into it, in both Old Birds and Young Birds. A 10 to 20 miler once a week during racing certainly isn’t going to take too much out of the pigeons.

With respect to training under different weather conditions the pigeons need to harden up by being exposed to the variations of weather conditions such as rain and wind. So long as they have two or three kilometres of clear conditions they should be alright. I remember many years ago, actually it was in my first year back in the sport when Keith Holder used to drive my car pigeon tossing. We drove to Pirongia, about a 90 mile toss to where I lived then in Te Atatu North. It had been showery all the way down with some pretty dark, squally, heavy ones. I think it was the first time the pigeons were let go there. They were Young Birds. I didn’t know much about pigeons then. It would have been clear at liberation, perhaps I wouldn’t have let them go if I’d gone by myself. Anyway it was a steady fly and naturally there were birds home when I got home.

The same deal applies to fog. Of course if the fog is thick and at ground level it is stupid to let pigeons go. But if the fog is breaking up with a little blue sky visible and the birds can see any wires within several hundred metres and you know that the fog isn’t too thick then the pigeons will just fly up through the layers of fog, orientate and head home above the fog.

We have had fog here this week. If it comes up the valley from the river to cover the paddocks I tell my helper to keep the youngsters in. Yes, they would learn something, but there’s no point in the pigeons crashing into things be it power lines or trees. I had a group of 5 go missing one year when I didn’t pick that the fog down towards the river would roll up to cover my place after I’d let the pigeons out not long after day break. I remember I lost a couple and one homed back 3 weeks later a BCH. As a two year old I sent her to Timaru i.e. 560 miles. Fog had been forecast for that race in the morning in Timaru but I’m told the liberation was o.k. I never saw her again but her brother won that Fed race in 14 hour 6 mins flying 560 miles and homing in the twilight. You can view that race report in South Island Liberations in the Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds Archive category.

I do like this Summer breeding, especially when you get conditions like we’ve had this year of real nice warm weather and only 4 days with significant rain so far 2013. You do have to watch out when the pigeons have 1/2 to 2 week old babies in the nest and the crop milk production is high. The trichomoniasis count elevates in some pigeons more than others during this time. The pigeons drink more water, they may get lazy and pump youngsters with a lot of water, as a consequence they lose more salts such as potassium and sodium chloride and that is why if you’re not supplying salt containing mineral blocks or piminix or something similar that you have to add a hunk of rock salt or table salt to the grit. They can get a bit woozy on it otherwise.

Of course not dosing with anti canker drugs might be seen as risky by some but if your genetic base is strong enough and you’re feeding a high protein and fat dietary mix then if it’s like my stock loft situation everything should be fine. At least you know which stock pigeons can hack the pace without a medication programme. In addition, just change the water as many times as possible, clean the drinker well often or have a dry, clean one ready and supply a source of salt throughout breeding. Perhaps the trich don’t like the salt.

I don’t bother about cider vinegar and crushed fresh garlic in the water but many others do, including Ad Schaerlaekens, the famous dutch pigeon writer, so who knows! I would tend to use a medicine in my racers or breeders if I really thought I had to. I would use an anticanker medicine in favour over the cider vinegar or fresh crushed garlic in the water. Either way, you are removing selection pressure, even if the cider vinegar and fresh crushed garlic are natural products. My desire is tougher, naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant pigeons at the end of the day, without losing the quality of the pigeons.

My personal belief is that if I continue my selective breeding programme that both the quality of the racers and the naturally disease resistant and disease tolerant attributes will both improve. I have a lot of pigeons to choose from when pairing and I only pair now if I think there is a good chance of producing good pigeons. The breeders are untreated apart from for worms and they have to appear to be in super health at pairing. Anything less is simply not paired and further down the track I hope I can let my breeders out prior to breeding to push the super health to even higher levels. I am lucky I have a great deal of space for my breeders i.e. a converted four sectioned concrete floor cow shed from yesteryear. The concrete floor is another reason I deworm the stock birds three or four times a year, as concrete is very absorbent and aids the risk of internal parasites and coccidiosis. However the old birds in general appear to have developed a resistance to coccidiosis which is to be expected.

The squeakers weaned off so far have in general been of a very high standard physically so hopefully there will be a few good ones amongst them for Old Birds and if I have a good run of health myself after the moult is finished the December and January hatch ones can have some training along with about 30 untrained yearlings. If it does happen they will just get 10 tosses to 30 miles, my wife will likely take them. Perhaps the weather will stay dry for most of April as it did last year until they hit a windy westerly, showery Young Bird Futurity race.

The good thing about not racing Young Birds is I didn’t have to breed really during racing. So there wasn’t the overlap of Old Bird racing and finding room for the first and second and maybe even third rounds of squeakers which most early breeders have to cope with. I haven’t pulled flights for years, but there’s definitely none of that. A few over here try the darkening method which many do around the world. I can understand why, those last three primary flights certainly can stuff things up around the time of the longer Young Birds Classics.

The other advantage is not having to medicate the squeakers apart from giving an internal parasite treatment i.e. deworming every now and then, as despite the drought, I don’t want roundworm or hairworms interfering with the growth of the squeakers. So this means any wet canker challenge or respiratory complex challenge of Chlamydia/Mycoplama e.t.c. can just be ignored. Yesterday I noticed a January hatch squeaker with a weepy eye, but I won’t treat it, it will return to normal in a week or so. I’ve never had one not. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that years ago. It’s good to let these loft endemic pathogens go through the squeakers; it helps harden them up in preparation for the immune challenges while racing as an Old Bird. So from last night the squeakers have Matrix hi mineral in the water until later on today.

The danger of course with flock dosing is that some pigeons don’t drink. I’ve given them a dose at the higher end of the spectrum but it should be fine. None of them have vomited, the levamisole in the anthelmintic can cause this and even if they did it would be o.k., but I might just leave it in the water 12 hours c.f. 24 hours if that happened. By the way, I’ve never seen any frets in the flights from using this drench which contains levamisole, oxfendazole i.e. a white drench and an avermectin i.e. abamectin. So it’s a triple action drench with the advantage of selenium and cobalt added. Both very important minerals and NZ soils tend to be deficient in both of them. So if a pigeon has this stock drench about 4 times a year then they’re getting some essential minerals too plus being free from worms most of the time. Over a whole year our climate in general here in NZ is usually a reasonably wet, humid one, especially here in the Auckland Federation and northwards. My pigeons peck around under the loft amongst pigeon droppings which fall through the grill floor of the loft and my stocking rate isn’t low. Usually when I deworm young birds I see some roundworms. I didn’t in December and I might not now because it’s been so dry all year. Of course because I’m not analysing the droppings there might be hairworms which are invisible to the naked eye.

So my conclusion. Roll on Summer breeding and the song Summer Lovin’ comes to mind. Maybe that’s what the pigeons have been having!

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One response to “Summer Lovin’

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  1. That was a very thoughtful and informative post. I’m sure very few people know all the facts, as you have presented them. Thanks for the information.

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