Brian’s Brit Blog Summer 2013   Leave a comment

In my last report in early March I said the weather was picking up and that my breeding programme was going according to plan, well I got that wrong on both counts! The winter returned with vengeance with the coldest Spring on record and it is still not really warm with temperatures struggling to get up to 20 degrees Celsius in mid June. On the breeding front, four pairs had their squeakers die suddenly in the nest at under a week old. At first I thought there could be a problem with toxins from the new nest felts or that the parents might have picked up something poisonous from the garden, or perhaps a predator such as a fox or stoat was attempting to break into the loft at night and disturbing the birds as both of these animals have been sighted in our garden. However, when I let these four pairs go down again and three of them plus a fifth pair had the same problem, again I knew something else was amiss and probably a serious health issue. The birds had not been treated for worms or anything else for some time, as prior to pairing up I had a dropping and throat swab sample tested and nothing had shown up. Also I had fumigated and disinfected the nest boxes and nest bowls, so I was not expecting any health issues. When the second round youngsters from these same pairs started dying I immediately sent off another dropping and swab sample and this time it showed the pigeons had a high infestation of both round and hair worms and a high trich wet canker count.

Dealing with the worm infestation was the first priority which was done immediately, then I treated for the wet canker. I also put out an email out to various contacts for help and I am very grateful for the advice given by firstly from the vets Fergus Elley, Dr Wim Peters and also to Kevin Winter who did the lab tests and Les Parkinson who put me onto the BIF range of products and advised on their usage as a disease preventative supplements. What actually killed the squeakers we cannot be totally sure, but the most likely cause was identified by Dr Peters as a bacteria “Streptococcus Bovis” which is prevalent throughout European lofts, but generally the pigeons build up a natural immunity to this disease, but it can be the cause of sudden death if the birds are already under stress which they clearly were with worm and canker problems. Following the treatments and administering the BIFs products, no further problems were experienced. However, there was one youngster that was in the nest from the 4th pair whose first round squeaker had died but had no problem with this second rounder, but its flight feathers got damaged when I administered the worm treatment. The wormer I used initially did have a warning on the packet not to use during breeding or moulting, but I had no choice but to treat immediately. Subsequently I obtained some moxidectin which is less severe and without these side effects. The youngster with the damaged flights has been retained, as the new feathers have been grown without any frets and when it moults out fully it will be fine. However, despite these setbacks I still had enough youngsters for myself and to complete my team for the Somerset one loft race plus five youngsters I promised another fancier.

I mentioned last time on the growing controversy both here in the UK and on the Continent about the dominance of the elite professional lofts. The latest issue to surface are the so called clearance sales by some of the Belgium and Dutch professionals and the crazy money that is being paid for their pigeons mostly by Chinese buyers, the most recent being Leo Heremans sale which netted 4.5 million Euros with a top price of 310,000 Euros for a young bird that had only flown 6 races of 100 km. Within a couple of years these same fanciers are back in the sport with yet more so called super pigeons to sell. Considering the dwindling numbers of fanciers and competition in these countries, Belgium (around 20,000) and the Netherlands (around 16,000) it is hard to see where the buyers see such high value in their pigeons. Even here in UK the number of fanciers has dropped to around 40,000, but at least here the pigeons that are valued highly have achieved top results in National and International racing over a much more difficult course than the Continentals race over. I also admire the Irish pigeons that have two sea crossings to traverse to get home. Another source of good birds are the German pigeons which have to race a rigorous programme, competing every week throughout the season, you only have to look to the results in the international one loft races to see the strength of the German pigeons performances. It seems to me potential buyers could get just as good a pigeon at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.

I mentioned previously my interest in trying the widowhood system even though my loft facilities were not ideal. Accordingly I have done the best I could with what I have and followed as close as possible to the system kindly provided by Alister Cooper. With the weather not being the best I held the team of 12 cocks back until mid May to start them off and after three weeks on the system they started to show some form with the best result I have ever had in my local club from an inland race, but not so good on their first channel race, so it is a learning curve and we will see how they go on the longer races.

The raptor problem has been as bad as ever this year with one youngster killed and eaten in my neighbours garden, three of the race team have some minor damage from the early races and twice when I have tossed them from the coast (30 miles) they have been hit and the last time my first bird back took two and half hours, the 12th six hours and one spare cock I also sent took two days. Most of my club mates have lost birds around home, one had five killed and two badly maimed over a four week period.

The latter half of June and first half of July feature our big longer distance Combine, Classic, National and International races. My personal interest will be in the Combine Bergerac race at 450 miles and the Tarbes National at 560 miles, although I only have a small team to put in I still enjoy competing in these events. I will report on the results next time.

All the best in the sport,

Brian Batchelor

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Posted June 18, 2013 by ferguselley in Brian's Brit Blog

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