Archive for December 2013

Latebreds, are they worth breeding?   6 comments

This subject has been a hotly debated one at times and so I thought it was about time that I did a blog article on it. Last year in 2012, I deliberately bred the latest I have ever bred as I had decided not to fly Young Birds. I’d had a pretty stressful year, in fact the most stressful for 13 years. It was time to have a break from the sport for eight months, especially from the shit stirring and gee did I enjoy the needed break! I had got quite depressed over the winter, which is unusual for me as despite the chronic nature of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the restrictions it places on my body I am in general usually fairly buoyant in the emotional department.

Unfortunately some people use the system for political and personal means and it is my opinion, that particularly in the case of chronically ill people that these attacks should not be tolerated by pigeon racing administrations. However, it takes a strong, wise, resolute, forthright President to deflect them. I think that our current ARPF President, Mr Alan Flannigan is such a one and I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress he has made particularly in the areas of pigeon welfare and ARPF financial prudency and expertise. Nothing is ever perfect and I’d expect that Alan, like myself, would acknowledge as most of us would about ourselves, that he is ‘a work in progress.’ It is also very good to see him at basketing and strike offs whether he is racing or not, he is there!

Now let’s return to the interesting subject of breeding late breds. The advantages that I see in breeding youngsters from the first month of summer in the northern and southern hemispheres are firstly that the weather is settled and generally nice and warm. The days are also progressively getting longer until the Summer solstice, but even in the following two to three months the days are also of a good length and generally very pleasant. I will add that one should be careful the breeding loft doesn’t get too hot, is well ventilated and the cleaner the better in these warmer months to help keep the birds at minimum stress levels. Of course, you need to have room for these youngsters or you may end up with health problems in the race loft!

Youngsters bred at this time of year have the opportunity of having full crops for longer periods of time and thus grow at an optimum rate. The breeding pigeons are likely to be in tip top shape and although it is possible that some of the hens may’ve laid in a lesbian relationship with the separated stock hens prior to pairing, this won’t hurt them and even when new pairs are brought together they usually pair up and get to nest very quickly. The quality of the eggs may also be better. Incidentally, I would never pair a pair of pigeons if they were not in super health, making allowances of course for an older pigeon, say nine or older whose body condition and vigour may not be exactly the same as when they were more youthful.

Breeding ability can also depend on the strain/bloodlines of the pigeons e.g. some cocks are done and dusted for breeding by the age of 12, whereas others are still going strong as old as 17 to 20. I personally found that the pigeons imported into New Zealand in the 1990’s or their straight bred offspring when cocks were often not much good by 12 years of age. Not only would they go infertile or sub fertile but their joints would start going and they’d start hobbling around, whereas I’ve had hens from the old lines of Vandies which have still looked great and laid at fifteen and were still alive at 20!

One of the biggest advantages of breeding latebreds here in New Zealand is that by the time you race them in September they are eight months of age, haven’t had to be trained or raced during the body moult, are perfect in the feather, can be trained in cool conditions (unlike young birds) and on my system of just dosing for internal parasites they are in general fairly tough as far as the challenges of wet canker and respiratory diseases e.t.c. go. I had my summer breds out nearly every day as I live in the country, so they could be out all day until 3 or 4pm enjoying the fresh air and whatever nature served up to them as far as weather conditions went. They got very fit and developed very well in their musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.

One does not get into problems with the primary wing flights i.e. the end ones being in the wrong positions, as these late bred pigeons do not finish the wing moult in their first year. Many years ago with Young Birds (which is a separate season here) I used to pull the tenth flight around Christmas. Some people pull both the ninth and the tenth. When you think about it, I guess there could be some pigeons that will be in an unfavourable flight position for a Classic race, but what are the odds of them being a winner even if the flights were pulled at Christmas? Is every pigeon a middle distance winner, obviously not!

In fact they say of random new pairings that only one in five bred are a good pigeon which perhaps might give you a good fly from a longer young bird race. However, unless that pigeon is in great form at the time it has favourable flight positions and luck is on its side too, it probably won’t do well. It might be instead that two or four weeks later that it is in better form, so there is some luck involved here. I guess if you’re going to pull the ninth and tenth flight then you might as well do the whole 30 or 40 which you may’ve bred which are old enough for young bird racing.

My philosophy is that rather than pull the flights, don’t send a pigeon if the flight position could affect its flying ability i.e. to a young bird middle distance race. Often you can tell by observing them flying around home i.e. is the pigeon flying freely. Of course, a pigeon can drop a flight once basketed for your classic race, but then again, they often hold them too, pretty hard to predict! I’m of the opinion that other pigeons can ‘put their hand up’ if one is kept back and the key here is to have quality breeders and if you haven’t got them, go and get some! Quality breeders will breed you more not only just good pigeons, but more very good pigeons and hopefully if you are lucky an extraordinary pigeon whose performances ‘paint the skies’ with brilliance!

I was pleased with the performances of my better summer breds in 2013 old birds. As a team they did very well, including that I sent four January hatch youngsters to our second longest racepoint Timaru, about 525 miles airline to me, not an easy race too (47 of 111 sent ARPF total birdage on the results sheet at 7pm the second day) and three homed in race time and the fourth after I had left for strike off. Only nine pigeons were home on the day for Auckland lofts including two in the hours of darkness. I clocked two pigeons on the day and the second was a Sumer bred cock which scored 7th Open Timaru ARPF. My 1st pigeon was a two year old hen which was 2nd despite having over flown a long way. The late bred cock had also shown up from Ward, our first South Island Federation race where I dropped six in the front bunch to score 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th, he was 3rd. I wasn’t set up for that race, I just had the clock on but no sections were open for birds to go in and I was lucky that I had just moments before walked down that way i.e. the pigeons did a super velocity.

Do you breed some summer bred late breds?

What tips do you have for their management?

How far do you send the better ones in their first year?

Advertisements

Mac scores six in a row with the first seven places!   Leave a comment

The South Island of New Zealand's Southern Alps.

The South Island of New Zealand’s snow capped Southern Alps. Stewart Island at the bottom and Invercargill just above.

The recent TV series ‘New Zealand from above’ describes the Southern Alps as a barrier to the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. On the 9th, 10th and 11th of December this year 21 out of 22 Auckland pigeon fanciers found this out to be very much so!

The winner, Mac Armstrong has other articles written on him on this blog under the category ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts’. Mac again sponsored this race to the tune of $3000.

Mac has now won this prestigious pigeon race from Invercargill (at the bottom of the South Island) to ARPF lofts 6 years on the trot. This year he was the least confident ever, perhaps that’s why he booked in 60 pigeons and ended up sending 50 to this race. However, to take the first seven places is no mean feat. Please see below. Five on the second day, two on the third with Dave Bunkers pigeon reaching home on the fourth. What more can be said. Is it numbers? I don’t think so! Why aren’t most of the other fanciers getting pigeons home in the four days race time?

ARPF Open Race from Invercargill 9 Dec 2013 Lib: 6:10 am (Mainly fine, variable wind) – 22 Lofts – 164 Pigeons – Airline measurement.

Plc

Loft

Club

No

Distance

Day

Clock

Var

Flying

Pigeon

Velocity

1

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

2

11:28:54

-1

20:55:53

MKU-09-0203 BC H

945.0878

2

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

2

12:48:54

-1

22:15:53

MKU-11-1215 BBWF H

888.4908

3

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

2

14:22:51

-1

23:49:50

MKU-11-1209 BB H

830.1107

4

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

2

15:29:13

-1

24:56:12

MKU-11-1231 BC H

793.2897

5

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

2

15:55:14

-1

25:22:13

MKU-11-1226 BLK H

779.7313

6

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

3

17:19:32

-1

42:23:31

MKU-11-1236 BC C

466.6453

7

Mac Armstrong Nth Harbour

50

1186920.0

3

17:32:20

-1

42:36:19

AKO-01-0173 BC H

464.3087

8

Point View Lofts Pak/Howick

11

1187110.8

4

13:24:13

-1

62:28:12

PHAK-09-3891 BC C

316.7149

WINGS Software by Polytimer Ltd – Licensed to Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation

Mac and Mary Armstrong, extreme distance champs again.

Mac and Mary Armstrong, extreme distance champs again.

The pigeons had been scheduled to be released as early as possible Friday the 6th of December, but were held over until the following Monday. There was fog at the racepoint Friday. The Waikato Federation pigeons were with the same liberator, Bill Beattie (as part of the PRNZ liberation). The PRNZ pigeons including 33 Waikato Federation pigeons sent from ten Waikato fanciers were liberated at 10.30am that Friday once the fog had cleared. The Waikato fanciers had five pigeons return in race time with Ron Simonsen (a very good long distance fancier) having three return in race time from five sent. Reid Lofts won with a 4 year old hen at 6.53am on the 3rd day i.e. Sunday doing 699 m/min, distance being 1156km through a Foxton Trig breaking point. Reid’s hen beat Anderson Lofts three year old hen by 47 minutes on time needed. Conditions for the PRNZ liberation pigeons were a steady challenge of headwinds particularly over the Cook Strait, so these five pigeons which homed into Waikato lofts have done extremely well.

The main reason the Auckland pigeons were held over Friday were the weather conditions in the Southern Alps. It is thought that the Auckland pigeons need to cross the Alps, perhaps around the middle of the South Island just north of Mt Cook, but until we can track them from such long distances we are only speculating. The Southern Alps are snow peaked all year round and rise to 3754 metres, running virtually the whole length of the South Island.

Mt Cook, known in Maori as 'Aoraki'.

Mt Cook, known in Maori as ‘Aoraki’.

So do the Waikato pigeons have to cross the Southern Alps somewhere? Certainly on this particular weekend I’d think that some might, perhaps a bit further north than the Auckland pigeons and the winds were variations of north (at times nor-east) mainly in the South Island on the Friday and the Saturday, so it’s likely some did cross the Alps. Very well done again those five pigeons!

Some Auckland fanciers maybe wishing the Auckland pigeons had gone up mid morning Friday too, however we’ve had races in the past where in nor-east winds one or no pigeons return from Invercargill in race time.

So it was very much the right thing to wait until at least Monday and I’d expect everyone hoped for a good number of pigeons returning by the end of the second day, but we must always remember, this is Invercargill!

Why were the returns in race time so measly? Well the winds were light at liberation but a glorious day. Heat was not likely a factor in the South Island on the day of liberation Monday. It was forecast for moderate south winds in the Alps around the Southern Lakes area; however the pigeons may not have been anywhere near there. Still conditions can be difficult to get over mountainous terrain in and yet the Bar-headed goose flies over the foot hills and passes in the Himalaya’s (and perhaps sometimes higher) in its annual migration which is much, much higher even than Mt Cook’s 3754 metres. It’s likely the pigeons spent a lot more time coursing through the valleys, hills, foot hills and Alps of the South Island. It’s not likely that many made it into the North Island on the day, but who really knows!

Bar-headed Goose in flight, light years ahead of our extreme distance racing pigeons.

Bar-headed Goose in flight, light years ahead of our extreme distance racing pigeons.

Mac won with a four year old hen which was second the year before in this race. Last year’s winner didn’t turn up in race time for Mac, I’ll have to find out if she has returned yet. Mac mainly clocked two year olds, first time down as far as Invercargill and six of the seven were hens.

I think we seriously need to consider the genetics we send to these races. Perhaps the price needs to be increased from $15 to say $25 a pigeon to narrow the field to mainly the elite. Also Auckland cut out the Dunedin some years ago so we don’t have an intermediatory point between Timaru and the Invercargill race points. Waikato do race both Oamaru and Dunedin and to their credit from this year’s Invercargill received five out of 33 pigeons home in race time with no doubt more home by now. Note, the three fanciers who clocked pigeons (Reid, 1, Anderson, 1 and Simonsen, 3) just sent 16 pigeons between them. As said before Ron Simonsen clocked three from five sent and likely has the other two home by now. Certainly no mean feat given the challenge!

However, some pretty experienced long distance fanciers sent teams of well prepared pigeons to this year’s Invercargill to Auckland race and you’d think that they would have the genetics and they’ve won Invercargill before. Considering the laws of average, if Mac sent 50 and got seven in race time, shouldn’t those of us that sent eight or more get one? I was happy to have one of my eight entries almost make it home on the afternoon of the 3rd day. It made it within 6km. I had no choice but to pick it up and was pleased to get her home, even if she did have a day and a bit of the race time left. I will breed off her in the New Year and she’s doing really well, obviously was about ready to throw the towel in, good pigeon all the same.

For those in Auckland, what did you think of our Invercargill race this year? If you were to choose an intermediatory race point (could be a new one) what place would you choose?

Would having a Westport make the big difference in getting more pigeons home in race time? Or would it be better to have a new race point e.g. well west of Timaru on the east side of the Alps so they might learn to traverse them from a shorter distance say five weeks before the Invercargill?

I wonder where this is? Any ideas?

I wonder where this is? Any ideas?

Do you think these more difficult Invercargills e.g. 2010, 2011 of recent years could be avoided by delaying basketing until the Alps may be clearer and there might even be the chance of an initial southerly, tail wind start, or do you think that the hold over makes little difference to the races outcome?

Apart from Mac, who would you go to for better extreme long distance pigeons here in New Zealand?

If you would rather remain confidential you may wish to consider emailing me your thoughts/questions to ferguselley@gmail.com and they can be used confidentially in a future blog.