Latebreds, are they worth breeding? part ll.   2 comments

A few weeks ago I wrote an article ‘Latebreds, are they worth breeding?’ Some of you may have read it. Peter Wilkinson, a senior flier from the Henderson club here in Auckland wrote a good comment on it, its worth having a read of. I also wrote an article, ‘Oh God, it’s Young Bird Season Again’ back in 2012, you can find it under the ‘Ferg’s birds’ category or at March 2012 in the archive index.

In many ways at the moment I am totally not motivated to fly young birds starting this March 2014. Many have trained plenty already, they’ve pulled flights, something I haven’t done for many, many years as I believe it’s just a tad cruel and you can still win without participating in this practice (not many darken over here). The weather is reasonably hot now, also it’s almost midsummer, not really the ideal time to train developing young pigeons and it’s humid too. In another month or two the youngsters will start the body moult, another stressful time. I am still of the mind that we should abandon young bird racing here in New Zealand and use that time to promote the sport. There simply are very, very few young people coming into the sport and there are many things we can do. Perhaps the subject of another blog!

Our young bird racing could easily be slotted into the old bird season programme like some countries do. There could still be ring races and other money races, even though the real skill in pigeon racing is from the long distance races and here in Auckland there is little financial return from the long distance races unless someone like Mac Armstrong, our extreme distance champ and amongst the best in the world at it I might add, sponsors the race, like he does with our Annual Invercargill to Auckland race.

If you are new to the site, please check the ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Lofts’ category. The articles you will find there mainly feature Mac Armstrong and many of them are on the Elimar site.

Previously, I talked about my racing of summer bred latebreds last year in 2013 having not bred until December 2012. They certainly went a treat and were up there in all our key races bar the Invercargill (I don’t send yearlings that far anyway). By the way, I have three back from eight sent to last year’s Invercargill race where there were only eight birds from a total birdage of 164 in the four days race time. I will breed off them shortly and fly the offspring perhaps as far as Timaru, 525 miles (airline) this year in November.

You may have been thinking, what medications did I use with these summer breds. Well, I’d like to say none, but it was minimal. In 2012 old birds I used one canker treatment but last year the winter was relatively mild so after the eighth race i.e. Raumati (250 miles) I gave a canker treatment (to help the pigeons cope with any respiratory challenge which the canker organisms make the pigeons more vulnerable to). Two weeks later after the Ward (our first South Island race) I gave them a second canker treatment, that was it. The only other treatment was for intestinal parasites twice prior to the Fed Raumati race to give them a good clean out. I also used most of a bottle of Clements tonic (500 mls), but didn’t give any until the week of the first Federation race i.e. the eighth race, Raumati.

So absolutely no antibiotics used for two old bird seasons now. It shows that the results can be good without their use and I wish more people around the world would adopt the right attitude to their proper use including pigeon vets i.e. they’re designed for using to treat really sick pigeons and not for trying to induce form. Form will come, be patient, look after them well, feed them very well, don’t over stress them racing and training, don’t over crowd them, have excellent loft ventilation and plenty of time out flying or simply relaxing in the sun/bathing as a tonic.

If some pigeons do break down i.e. they have some significant nasal catarrh, spell them for a few weeks, longer if required. If markedly affected then put them in aviaries or get them out even more. In most cases once a pigeon is eight months of age or older its immune system, if the genetics are sound, will figure out what organisms are attacking it and produce antibodies i.e. ‘natures antibiotics’, much better than relying on something in a bottle to induce form, just be patient and keep selecting for tougher more disease resilient pigeons for the stock loft. That’s the right path, do you agree!

I would note that here in Auckland this is easier in our old bird season as the days are getting warmer and longer so our racing, particularly in the last month or so in Novemeber/December, kind of mimics what is happening in migratory or semi-migratory birds. In our young bird season, March to the end of May, we are racing in autumn, the days are shortening, and by April sometime, depending on each local loft environment and how insulated your loft is, then you might hit some problems. It is one thing having a small number of youngsters develop respiratory disease to the extent that they can’t be raced i.e. to race them again that season they’d likely need an antibiotic treatment and it’s another thing if many are infected/showing clinical signs of respiratory disease. Herein lies the dilemma for me, which I had two years ago (last time that I raced young birds) near the end of our young bird season in May, to treat or not to treat with antibiotics or to stop racing. In fact last year I decided not to race young birds so I bred late 2012 and that was one determining reason not to race.

The ceiling of my lofts are unlined, so overnight from late autumn till spring sometime there is often condensation appearing on the ceiling, not good for the pigeons. Really, the answer is of course to have the ceiling of the loft lined and also insulation material placed between the roof and the ceiling.

About four years ago in 2009 I had a tremendous young bird season. I had two blue barrs which were up there in three feature races e.g. first and second Open Young Bird Futurity Levin 230 miles, first and second Eastern Union Otaki and these two also came with three others in the Jack Longville Memorial race where I was 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th.

What I did that year was to individually dose the pigeons i.e. with antibiotics. But I only treated the pigeons that had significant signs of respiratory infection. What was interesting, and someone who flock doses with antibiotics should also observe this, half the pigeons didn’t need the antibiotics i.e. there were no visible signs of respiratory infection. So that was food for thought. Later in the season I still individually dosed those untreated pigeons, but I think the better way is just to dose the young birds that need it.

It will be very interesting to see what happens when I do line the ceiling of the loft, how will that lengthen loft form at the end of the young bird season when the days are fairly short, it’s windy up here in the hills of Onewhero and getting cold. Ultimately, while the young bird season racing remains where it is over here I aim to not use antibiotics. One of the problems here like many parts of the world is that we pre-pay for the young bird classic races, so in part unless one forfeits the entry money I might be obliged to resort to flock or individual birds antibiotic dosing near the young bird season’s end.

However, we must remember, amongst our team are some pigeons that won’t need dosing, they can handle a lot of racing and perhaps four of a middle distance length in young birds. It is a challenge to breed more of these pigeons, then it’s more likely that the loft will hold form with no antibiotic treatment, as there will be more pigeons capable of ‘sticking their hand up’ at the right time and perhaps fewer pigeons acting as carriers and reservoirs for the nasties!

Will I give some canker treatments this young birds? It is very likely that I will, just as my summer breds had two such flock treatments. The longer I can delay it the better as form is likely to lift as a whole after such dosing i.e. between the Bulls race and the young bird Futurity from Levin might be the right time and then once again, three to four weeks later after the Eastern Union Otaki race leading up to the prestigious biennial Young Bird National.

I wonder how many Auckland fliers were disappointed this 2013 Old Birds just gone because they continually pumped medicines into their young birds last year in young birds? Perhaps they had a few young birds shine for them, but how many went on to be good yearlings from either the middle or long distance? Pigeons last longer with less medicines, especially antibiotics.

One of my aims is to not have to use any medications other than for internal parasites i.e. worms and I am half way there. My breeders are in their third year of not having any medications, just treatment for worms. It has meant that some of them have had to toughen up in that time; it can expose a few weaknesses. None of my breeders had any health issues in the breeding season just gone, but you might be surprised what weaknesses show up when you first embark on the no dosing regimen.

For me it manifested in that certain bloodlines were more prone to dry canker in their squeakers and wet canker in adult breeders and some weaned squeakers. However, it’s been a bit like putting the blow torch on my racing pigeon genetics and it’s certainly the way to refine your pigeons. I cull one in ten youngsters in the nest, always canker, some I treat, although this eventually may turn out to be the wrong policy, we’ll see. Winners can still come in the form of squeakers that had significant throat canker in the nest and were treated for it. I don’t mind if a few get just a little canker in the nest as it shows they also have an overt immune response to it. I never touch it till ringing or later. Sometimes it can be gently massaged out, perhaps over a two day period. Sometimes I will treat it, sometimes I will pick it out after treatment i.e. the next day, sometimes it requires a second treatment and more picking out the next day.

I think the consensus in the pigeon community around the world is that there’s less chance of a Fed winner from a pigeon that had canker in the nest, but we’ve probably all had them. I’ve even heard of squeakers with naval canker being top racers, but I think here the chances are a lot less; the key here with naval canker is drainage and a treatment.

As I said above, it could be that further down the track I decide to cull every squeaker in the nest that can’t ‘cure itself’ from dry canker. Hopefully as time goes by I will see less and less of it due to the selection pressure on my genetics i.e. not breeding off pigeons that perform well that were treated for either canker in the nest or dry or wet canker after weaning.

After weaning I cull one in ten squeakers, generally for wet canker, viruses may also be involved in some of these sick squeakers e.g. circo virus and E.coli too. If I do treat any, then it is just a canker treatment, sometimes two. It could be in the future I don’t treat any youngsters with such maladies. My current policy is that if the squeaker has the will to fight it then I will give it a chance. If they reach the ‘point of no return’ they are culled before they suffer unduly and unfairly.

Some fanciers will say they never get canker, dry or wet and they never dose. Perhaps their eyesight is poor! Everyone gets canker while breeding if they don’t medicate, it’s just that some might not be aware of it unless they get a real obvious case as they aren’t looking down the throats of squabs in the nest regularly.

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?

You have often had success from 500 miles plus. Have you had better success with late bred pigeons that were not pushed too far in their year of birth e.g. only to 200 to 300 miles max and then they went on as two and three year olds to produce outstanding performances?

You can post a comment below, rate this article or contact me personally at

2 responses to “Latebreds, are they worth breeding? part ll.

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  1. Hi Fergie been having a think about sickness in the loft,which brought to mind a statement an old Yorkshire farmer I first worked for made “a sheeps worst enemy is another sheep”what he was telling me was, get the stocking rate right.How often over the years I have over heard fancier say so an so is flying much better these days and the reply often was yes he has since he had a good cull out!Fanciers I find tend to think all birds in their loft are potential winners or breeder of champions??perhaps at the end of the old bird season a good study of their records would help,should not the criteria, be which birds were consistanly well placed in races?and which stock birds were breeding such birds! the rest are only making up the numbers,and well be disposed of to make way for the Y Birds’ I was discusing this subject with a fellow fancier the other day he agreed,yes over crowding causes stress and with it an high risk of spreading disease.antibiotics aren’t going to cure that (a pigeons worst enemy is another pigeon??)

  2. To important important natural products to have in the loft
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