Archive for the ‘Auckland Federation Racing 2012 Old Birds’ Category

Theo does it in style!   Leave a comment

The Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) Timaru race was flown on the 25th of November 2012. 18 lofts entered 77 birds and the pigeons were transported by road. The liberation was at 6.30am and the mainly light winds enroute were variable with fine weather over the whole of New Zealand.

Theo and Monique van Lier won this our second longest race by a time needed of 63 minutes 19 seconds. An incredible fly by their two year old BCH! Her velocity was 1395.38 m/min. Distance for Theo’s loft being 950km through a lower North Island Foxton trig breaking point. Elley family lofts were 2nd and 3rd (2 together). Theo was also 4th, Kerry Frazer 5th and Forest Hill lofts 6th.

Returns from the race were very good, which was most pleasing to see. With the Invercargill race scheduled for two weeks later, this ‘good pigeon weather race,’ was an opportunity for the birds to get some decent mileage under their belts, enabling some of us to re-enter Timaru birds to the Invercargill and clock them.

All in all a good Timaru result, allowing fliers to build up a team of experienced distance birds for 2013. Congratulations to Theo and Monique again, super bird and super season, winning amongst other things the prestigious Henderson Classic 500 mile race.

Fergus Elley questions Theo van Lier on his racing methods.

Before I begin, let me first introduce Theo van Lier to you. Theo is a successful businessman, really good guy and a top fancier. Theo is the owner of Van Lier Nurseries Ltd, a business started by his father Mr Walter Van Lier after arriving in New Zealand from Holland in 1951. Theo gained a Dip.Hort. from Massey University in 1982 and then became the nursery manager. In 1987 he bought the family business which now covers 2.3 hectares of growing area in Riverhead and Massey, West Auckland. It is a large supplier of cut roses and carnations.

Theo, please tell us how you got started in the sport?

My eldest brother Fred started with pigeons when he was at school and I used to help him with the birds. I enjoyed the birds and started racing when I returned from my OE in 1982.

You served as Federation President for three years until mid 2010 and did a very good job I might say. How do you think the ARPF can grow and keep improving its public image? Do you think we should be promoting the sport in the primary and high schools? What ideas do you have for promoting the sport?

Not an easy question to answer. I believe the clubs have to do most of the work. If the clubs are strong, the Federation can do its work. It’s the members that have to enjoy the sport and make it a friendly and happy environment, then things will improve for everyone. I am all for schools to be involved, but it takes a lot of energy and organisation to do this.

Amongst all of your results over the years what three wins do you rate the most memorable?

The Henderson Classic last year was special, as I have been 2nd in this race so often.

Also the sister of the winning hen I clocked in the Classic won the young bird National (West Section) for me in May last year.

Three years ago I won the Western Union Young bird Derby with my own auction bird.

How many pigeons do you start young bird racing with?

I normally breed 50 to 60 young birds.

How many pigeons do you start old bird racing with?

About 70.

How many stock birds do you usually keep?

10 pairs.

Do you breed some birds for stock from your best breeders and racers? Do these tend to be more closely bred? Are they tried on the road, even if only to 100 miles?

There are quite a lot of things which I look for in a breeding bird, such as racing ability, pedigree; it has to prove its ability in the stock loft. I do line breed and I am always on the lookout for good genetics.

Do you think your horticultural knowledge and profession gives you an edge on a lot of the opposition, especially from the breeding side of things?

No, I don’t think so. You just have to enjoy and study your birds to succeed.

What does a race bird usually have to do to earn its spot in the stock loft?

It has to be consistently handy when racing and win when it’s fit. It has to be better than the rest!

How many squeakers do you normally breed each year?


What are your lofts made of and how big are they?

My loft is wooden with a tiled roof. It is T shaped, being 12 metres along the front and 3 metres deep, with a stock loft out the back, 5 metres long, 2.4 metres deep.

What three features of your loft are stand-out improvements on your previous lofts design?

Tiled roof, good widowhood loft and good ventilation. Plumbed and powered.

You have dominated the West Section of the ARPF for the last decade especially from the middle distance. What three things would you say are the most important factors which have contributed towards this?

Good breeding, health of the birds and preparing the birds well for the big races.

You have recently had a fantastic result from Timaru and won your clubs feature 500 mile Christchurch race. Has this given you a hunger for more? Do you enjoy the short and middle distance programme more than the long distance programme, or is there no difference?

I prefer middle and long distance racing.  Although your long distance team can be destroyed by one bad race. To me, it’s very important that the birds are given the best chance to get home in ultra long distance racing. The weather forecasting is critical!

What families of pigeons do you keep?

My main family is Brasspenning with some Janssen (James Bond) and Linssen. There is also some old Logans/Vandie in the pedigrees.

Are you aiming to breed lines of pigeons that will fly 50 to 800 miles, or are you maintaining separate distance lines or just preparing birds from whatever bloodlines and sending them if they seem up for it to 500, 600 and 800 miles?

I have concentrated on middle distance up to 500 miles and believe they can go to 600 but that’s their limit. For the last 6 or 7 years I have been trying to get birds to do the 800 miles well. It’s a slow process, so we will see in the next couple of years if the breeding programme is working. I’ve brought in a few ultra long distance birds to help in the quest for success.

Would you like to give Stewart Island a go with some well prepared pigeons if the ARPF adopts it as a racepoint?

Yes I would. I’ve thought it would be possible to fly it with the Hamilton boys if we got organised.

You enjoy Out of Area pigeon racing, how many fanciers do you send to and receive squeakers from for competition around New Zealand?

I send to Christchurch, Hastings and Wellington for many years and have enjoyed some great friendships. It has given me a great opportunity to try other fancier’s birds in my loft and see how my birds compete in other lofts.

Do you breed off your race team for the purpose of racing the progeny?

I breed off some of my top widowers.

How many pigeons do you think that you need to breed off any individual stock pair each year (or 2 year period) to see if they are quality producers?

4 youngsters per pair should be enough.

Do you breed late bred youngsters and what success have you had with such youngsters as yearlings or 2 year olds e.t.c.?

Yes I do breed a few late breds off some of the best stock birds or a very good racer. These are raced as yearlings and have always done very well.

What is your basic feeding for short and middle distance racing i.e. mainly North Island? (to around 300 miles)

I feed a high barley diet up to 300 miles.

Are your feeding methods different for old birds than young birds up to 300 miles?

Not really, although if they are moulting I give them extra food.

Do you use any preventative medication?

Yes, but sparingly. I believe natural health and a dry warm loft is very important.

What is your current policy with any treatments of young birds between weaning and racing? Do you prefer the ‘swim or sink’ policy to whittle out the weaker birds with limited intervention and use of drugs?

I do very little treating after weaning. They get wormed and treated for cocci before training starts. They may get a treatment for wet canker if the weather is wet and cold for a long period.

Do you have a microscope to examine droppings and crop samples? If so, do you use it?

No, I don’t have a microscope.

Do you use the vet much with the pigeons?

Not very often.

Do you believe in eyesign?

I do not believe in eyesign.

Who helps you currently with the birds? Do they help you with training, loft duties e.t.c.? How has the sport fitted in with your family life over the years?

I do most of the birds by myself. I do share training with some of the guys in the club.

Do you think we race our Young Bird Season at the wrong time of the year, and would he agree to the same method that Australia race?

This is difficult to answer.  With our weather conditions, it is possible for us to race at any time of the year, although January and February are too hot. I think we should start racing young birds later and have a slightly shorter season.

Finally, tell us a bit about the two year old hen which won the ARPF Timaru race (around 600 miles through a lower North Island Foxton breaking point) last year on the 25th November 2012? What flights of over 100 miles had she had in the preceding 8 weeks? Was she paired and racing to any incentive? Had she flown well for you previously and did you pick her to be first of your eight entries sent?

The hen was flying to the perch and had raced eight times. She was 21st from Ward on the 20th Oct. Then 51st from Christchurch on the 4th Nov. Then on the 16th Nov she was first home from a training toss from 240km. Then the following week on the 25th Nov 2012 she flew Timaru and won.

Thank you Theo for your answers and I look forwards to the next article on you and photographing your key birds and your lovely loft.

My Timaru birds and Invercargill hen.   Leave a comment

Thought it might be good to share some shots of my pigeons again. They were taken at basketing at my loft prior to leaving for the Timaru Federation basketing on the evening of the 22nd of November 2012. In all I sent ten birds to Timaru (560 miles to my loft). Elley Family Loft had three on the day and five the next day by around lunchtime. I hadn’t flown the first Christchurch 500 mile race three weeks before, so this was a good opportunity to see if some of the pigeons would respond to a bit more distance. In the end, I just sent the one pigeon to Invercargill two weeks later and got her. In 2009 and 2010 I sent just the one pigeon to the Timaru, a BCH 563 and got her on the day both times. She was 6th the first year and 9th the next. She’s now in stock as she was born 2005.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon FederationTimaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd ARPF (Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation) Timaru 560 miles 2012.

I mentioned in a recent blog that there will be a blog on Theo van Lier whose two year old hen beat the opposition from Timaru to Auckland Federation lofts in 2012 by 63 minutes. Her flying time was 11 hours 21 minutes with a velocity of 1395m/min, distance 950km (590 miles). My first two birds which arrived together are pictured here in this blog. It was an incredible fly by Theo’s bird! Theo has been working on a very long list of questions which I sent him. No doubt we will have all the answers for you on this blog and the excellent site which I supply articles for about New Zealand fanciers. I also plan a visit of Theo and Monique’s loft after the pigeons have finished their moult. So you should look forwards to plenty of photos of the van Lier family’s lovely loft and birds. We thank him for taking the time from his busy rose growing e.t.c. business schedule in West Auckland. Any questions for Theo, Mac or even myself please email me at or post in the comments section, thank you.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

If you studied this blog site in full, then perhaps you’d recognise this hen pictured five times here, from a blog in April 2012 Young birds. You’ll find it in the index under Ferg’s birds category titled, Ferg’s Young Birds 2012 Update.

She pranged up just before the Bulls race last year in Young birds, scraping her back and rump quite badly, probably trying to get out of the way of the cock driving her and as a consequence hit the wires on the loft roof. Below next is a shot of the injury she sustained and of course she was rested till Old birds. She flew well last year in Old birds including this Timaru fly and was jumped from Ward near the top of the South Island which is around 330 miles. Placing second Timaru 560 miles is a very good effort for a yearling! In Young birds she had been 2nd Combine when her sister won the Combine from Mahoe, just a short race of 110 miles. They were both doing 1021 m/min and I thought at the time that it was a good indication of their value for the distance, as it was a steady overcast day with headwinds.

Ouch!! Wondered if her mate who was starting to drive her had caused her to go between the wires above the loft that keep the birds from landing on the loft roof.

Ouch!! Wondered if her mate who was starting to drive her had caused her to go between the wires above the loft that keep the birds from landing on the loft roof.

It just shows you that if you look after them well after injury and don’t rush them back into racing, that you can be rewarded further down the track, as this hen did. One thing that almost put me off sending her to Timaru were very dry feathers. I put that down to the stress of coming back from injury, as her feathers were silky in Young birds. I’m glad I took the punt and sent her, as I couldn’t fault her otherwise. The birds had just the one canker treatment two weeks before the Timaru race. That was it for the season and no antibiotics.

I was tempted to send her to the 750 mile Invercargill race two weeks later, as although initially for the first two days she was flown out, by the following Friday she and two other yearlings were looking a box of birds and she had her usual grumpy, fiery character back. In the end, none of the yearlings came up to scratch for the Invercargill. She in fact had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring in it. I’m glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

She’s currently mated to the three year old BBC featured below. The first round has just weaned itself off and she will lay again soon. I plan to farm out the eggs or the squabs some time after hatching. For those interested in her breeding, she is off a cracker son of 577 when mated to 572. 577 was a son of Greg Clarke’s best racer Houbie when Houbie was mated to his great grand-daughter 219, a half Houben, half Janssen hen. 219 won the West Section Yearling Champs and Flock Johnsonville in 2002 for me (a steady one), which was the last year that I raced in West Auckland. 577 was a super young bird cock in 2006. 572 is a straight Janssen hen off my best lines. She was my best yearling hen in 2006 and excelled herself racing, including 2nd Futurity Yearling Ward 330 miles and 2nd East Section Old Bird National Christchurch 450 miles, having come with 1st and 3rd to my loft. The dam of this hen featured here in photos five times (including pranged up shot) is a linebred vandie base hen and she is a grand-daughter of BB Vandie cock 423, the Open Old Bird National Christchurch winner in 1994 for me living at Waterview, before I married Helen.

Yearling BBH 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Yearling BBH, 2nd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 560 miles 2012.

Please note that this cock 423 is the great-grandfather of Mac Armstrong’s 2009 and 2011 Invercargill winners, since they were both off BBH 243. 243 was a granddaughter of Vandie cock 423 and Mac obtained her from me and unfortunately she was accidentally killed in the loft when Mac opened a door a bit hard by mistake. The sire of Macs 2009 winner was a Janssen cock from me of vos lines and a son of this vos cock (also from me) bred his 2011 winner i.e. both winners off BBH 243. The Invercargill 2011 race event was the hardest in the last four years, as the bird arrived around 6pm on the second day after an early morning liberation the previous day. There was no wind assistance. So a real gutsy pigeon! Mac had another two pigeons one hour 36 minutes later to take the first three and Colin Webster had one not far behind for 4th. Just the six pigeons back in the results after four days from the entries of all fanciers, which was 61 birds.  You can view that winner by selecting the Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts category in the index. He’s in a couple of those blogs, so go have a read or pop it open in another window on your PC!

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This guy above is the mate of the hen featured above and they make a great pair, so I can only hope the offspring will deliver the goods next year, as they are fairly late bred and the second round will be even later! However since the hen is eggy, they are definitely worth taking and she will stay in the race loft this year where she is breeding currently. In my mind, they are a typical matched pair. She has the hardluck hen 7875 from Des Sippets Australian Riverview stud as great great grand dam cock side and another step back hen side giving linebreeding to 9% 7875. She is a real smorgasbord of bloodlines viz, Houben, different Janssen lines and of course my base vandie birds and a touch of Jim Howarth birds. The hardluck hen is in most of my pigeons and she was a grand-daughter of the gun U.K. race cock Hardluck. 7875 was half planet brothers with the Bange of 77 and the Raket hen featured on the dam side. So top stuff and her descendents have done really well for me throughout the years, now up to as far as 750 miles Invercargill.

3 year old BBC 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

3 year old BBC, 3rd Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012.

This same 3 year old cock whose mate I’ve just outlined the pedigree of is a Houben/Janssen hybrid mix i.e. 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen cock mated to a 1/2 Houben 1/2 Janssen hen. I didn’t really test him until 2012. He is a full brother of my Timaru winner from 2011 who was one of two day birds in the ARPF flying 14 hours and 6 minutes, arriving on dusk and winning by 13 minutes. A pretty hard race. There’s a blog in the index category Auckland Federation Racing 2011 Old Birds the South Island liberations one posted on the 13th December 2011. I have had a lot of success with other brothers and sisters including the gun Blue hen in 2009 Young Birds which won 1st Open Futurity Levin around 230 miles, 1st Eastern Union Otaki around 240 miles and 4th Jack Longville Race Raumati around 250 miles. This three year old cock is a quiet cock like his brother which won Timaru in 2011 and also came with 1st and 3rd to score second the year before in a fast Open Old Bird National from Christchurch, 450 miles to me. I hadn’t done much with him until he was three, just kept him in the North Island races. He was a latebred, so was only lightly raced in 2010. He is a cock who is a bit prone to a runny nose. It’s probably a susceptibility to Chlamydia/Mycoplasma and perhaps dust or mould spores. I hadn’t sent him to the South Island as a two year old for this reason, even though the loft had dosing a number of times after the 8th race. As I said earlier, I gave a canker treatment 2 weeks out from the Timaru 2012. I also gave him Clements tonic, the green one i.e. a couple of times individually and it helped to dry the nasal catarrh up. Like his current mate above he had flown the Ward (330 miles) five weeks before. He was on eggs for the Timaru to a different hen which was one more closely related. I got two nice squeakers off that pair so it’ll be interesting to see how they go as it was an uncle niece mating and he’s already 68% linebred to key Janssens and Houbens.

I also considered him for the Invercargill race. By that stage he had two five day old squabs. Of course he was very keen. On handling him five minutes after arriving home from the Timaru he was even bigger and heavier than at basketing, not that he wasn’t in premo condition then! I felt at the time that the guys to the south of the Auckland Federation who took them on the journey south from Hamilton after Don Campbell had delivered them must have done a terrific job caring for them and on behalf of the fliers I thank them for that. I’m pretty sure that if I’d sent him to Invercargill that I would not have clocked him ahead of the single entry of the BCH I sent and clocked. In fact I think that I’d have dorked him. He had catarrh again and that was one of the factors that ruled him out. I’ve learnt over the years for 750 miles when not to send them. There’s always next year if he has the right form and health, perhaps first nest of the year. Having four squeakers off him already and his second hen about to lay again means that I’ll have a bit of his progeny to try out in the future.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

This little, slender BCH is off the hen I mentioned earlier 563 which I sent to Timaru in 2009 and 2010 viz just the one entry and got her. 563 was off a vandie cock and a straight Janssen hen. The hen above and below’s sire is a race cock of mainly Janssen bloodlines with a touch of vandie. They were a love pair in 2010. This hen had never been to the South Island before and was on eggs to another hen. Lightly raced as a latebred. She looked good and had been coming well prior to the Timaru. I considered her for the Invercargill, but again like the yearling BBH above, she had a slightly mucousy nostril and the muscle tone was too hard i.e there was no spring. I’m also glad that I didn’t send her, as there was a good chance that I’d have lost her or wrecked her for future racing. Perhaps if it had been a harder race she would have beaten the first two home. She might have done better in a headwind. However, the pigeons did well from Timaru as they had no tossing the whole season until the Monday the week of the Invercargill, our last race. Also they were prepared from a Ward race of 330 miles five weeks before and it wasn’t a hard race and about 7.5 hours for most of my Timaru entries. However, this hen didn’t have that race, so she really had seven weeks off from a steady workout race i.e. Plimmerton 260 miles.

2 year old BCH 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

2 year old BCH, 8th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated.

The last pigeon photographed here (last four shots seen below) is a two year old BCH which also was only raced lightly as a latebred in 2011 like the hen above. She flew both Timaru and Invercargill last year. So a really good effort. In the Timaru she homed early on the second day at 6.53am and I could see her coming back a long way from town i.e. she’d overflown with another fancier’s second day pigeon I’d expect. However, she looked really fresh and she never shows any sign of respiratory problems even in the slightest. She was the one when you think about it, that I might get from 750 miles. Might, of course, you always have to say!

She is a very quiet hen. In the race loft she was one of those hens which were mated up to me. She was quite rank after the Timau race and quite keen to get into the cocks (I mainly race sexes separated). It was a big ask to turn her around to the Invers and I gave all my candidates peanuts in preparation for it as the main thing was to get one in race time. I hadn’t fed peanuts for the Timaru. I started the peanuts about 10 days before the Invercargill basketing. I also mixed sunflower oil into the grain mix from about that time. That’s why it was so easy to get a heavy, big body on this hen. Given that management, she probably needed a 50 miler on the Monday prior to the Wednesday basketing. However, I didn’t want to ‘cook her’ i.e. overdo her, given her 560 mile race just recently. The main goal was getting her back.

Mac Armstrong actually gave his pigeons 50 mile single ups on the Monday and the Tuesday the week of Invercargill basketing 2012. They’d had a 480 mile Christchurch five weeks before the Invercargill and a stiff Raumati (280 miles) two weeks before the race. In 2010 Mac’s pigeons had two 480 mile races leading up to the main event of Invercargill. One of these 480 mile races was a tough one, the first one.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

I sent her away to Invercargill with plenty of condition on her and moderate weight, but not leady. She is a decent sized hen and a bit wedgy. She was absolutely shining and there was no point sending any of the others, they just weren’t right! It’s always a risk just sending one pigeon to such an extreme event but the reward is certainly there if it features well in the prize money ahead of some of the big teams. Perhaps if I’d given her more work than the one short toss then she may have gotten a few places higher than 6th.

She has a real smorgasbord of bloodlines in her, Janssen, Houben, the old dutch lines and the old vandie lines. A true crossbred one might say with some linebreeding to the vandies a little bit, just in the breeding of the dam. Some real cracker vandies in the dams breeding i.e. performance pigeons from Christchurch and Timaru. Pity I lost the dam in 2011 from Invercargill and this illustrates what a graveyard this Invercargill racepoint can be. It also highlights to me the importance of preparing your pigeons right with a 500 or 600 mile race within five weeks of the ultra marathon event. If you don’t do the minimum of that then its unlikely that you’ll succeed. Read all the blogs on this site under the index category of ‘Annual Invercargill Race to Auckland Racing Pigeon Club Lofts’. It’s all there. Please feel free to comment or email me at ferguselley if you have any questions for Mac as I’m in the process of doing another Elimar article i.e. an excellent site which I highly recommend.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

It will be interesting to see how she races next year. If we can get Stewart Island on the ARPF race programme perhaps I will send her there, as I have by no means burnt her out. She is on her second round down in the stock loft. She only laid one egg the first round which was probably because she was still getting over her marathon race, even though you wouldn’t think so handling her and looking at her back around Christmas last year. It’s a very nice squeaker. I will either only let her rear one more youngster and for just 2 weeks until feathered up and then let the cock finish it off. If both eggs hatch I will farm one of them out. The stock birds are starting the body moult as the days get shorter and the nights longer. We are in a real drought here, however, the days have been a bit cooler than January and February when the hot sun-baked the ground.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH, 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Well, what else can I add in this marathon blog. Invercargill and hopefully Stewart Island are the main two races for me to aim for from now on. That’s my commitment. I’m learning under the ‘master’ i.e. Mac himself. Writing these articles really presses home how he actually does it and although I am limited in capabilities to give the pigeons road work due to my poor health, I will have to sort out that area and have others, like my good wife Helen toss the candidates for me later in the year. I won’t have a hope of beating Mac otherwise! Lucky I’ve got a loft cleaner, Kim.

Finally I ‘d like to add that although I call our Invercargill race the ‘New Zealand Barcelona’ there are a couple of differences that come to mind. Firstly, we use a breaking point which adds about 5% extra miles than airline to the distance. We do this for all our South Island races. It is from Foxton, which is about 50 miles up the coast from the bottom of the North Island, and we probably have it mainly because of the prevailing westerly winds. Secondly, we don’t have the huge numbers of the Barcelona International. Last year there were 130 birds which was our best muster in recent years. Manaia birds from up near Whangarei go up with the Auckland Federation liberation. Thirdly, we usually have a liberation between 6 and 7am or the pigeons are held over. This is essential and gives the pigeons the maximum chance of returning home either on the day or during the next morning. The latter is great for the public image of pigeon racing and will become more and more important in the future as the tide of animal welfare activism slowly rises.

If we can all obtain good enough stock to have a chance of getting the returns which Mac Armstrong normally gets and adopt his methods which he is sharing with all in sundry, then that will be great for the public image, too.

There is an article directly below this one, featuring an Invercargill to Auckland race report which gives more details. Please take the time to rate these articles (press the star to the right of the five stars if you think its awesome!) as when people do rate them it gives me great pleasure. All these articles take a fair bit of effort so any comments and emails are well received.  After all, as the saying goes ‘iron sharpens iron’ and I still consider myself a novice at these ultra long distance events in which when you prepare a bird right and perhaps have just an ‘ounce’ of luck can be immensely rewarding. The main reward being the ‘trophy’ of the pigeon returning in race time and then you can admire it and breed some latebreds off it. I’m sure plenty of you would like a squeaker off this hen who’s mated to an East Section Old Bird National Christchurch winner 2009 (450 miles) velocity 1182 m/min and is a real tough cock.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

2 year old BCH 18th Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation Timaru 2012. 13 on the day birds from 77 liberated. This hen came the next morning from the north at 6.53am. 2 weeks later she was 6th ARPF Federation Invercargill 750 miles. I just entered the one bird.

Do you think latebreds are worth breeding and what education in the training and racing department would you give them their first year? Please share your ideas with all of us in the comments section below. I will just check your comment and then enable it for the site.

Blog and Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) update.   1 comment

Its been a while since I blogged. There are a couple of blogs which I’ve put on the site a while ago, this is a site I write for when I am able to and is an excellent site. I will place them on this site in the next few days depending on how my health goes. These include another article on Mac Armstrong and a race report on the 2012 annual Invercargill to Auckland pigeon race. Upcoming Elimar articles by myself are one on a top Auckland flier Theo van Lier and another has questions for Mac Armstrong from nz and U.k. fanciers. If the forementioned blogs don’t appear soon then just check out the Elimar site and search Fergus Elley or Mac Armstrong if you like the extreme distance racing!!

If you happen to have any questions for either flier just mentioned don’t hesitate to ask one in the comments section below or email them to me at

Fliers in Auckland are gearing up to fly the 2013 young bird season. I didn’t have anything hatch until December, but have some lovely youngsters. I might have my wife train up a couple of dozen of them with untrained yearlings of about the same number. I will wait until the birds are through the body moult which has just started.

I have only treated these youngsters with hi mineral matrix to eliminate internal parasites, none were seen. This doesn’t mean there were no hairworm. I have culled a few youngsters which weren’t up to it constitutionally. It certainly is the time of year to breed i.e. December hatched and onwards through our warm dry Summer and I expect some ‘crackers’ amongst the birds I’ve bred. But I will be patient with them.

I’m really only interested in the long distance now, particularly 560 miles (Timaru) and 750 miles (Invercargill). I had a pretty good old bird season, winning 3 of the 7 Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation trophy races. Considering that I didn’t give a canker treatment until a fortnight before our last 3 races I feel that I achieved something. Mac doesn’t dose apart from for worms. Long distance pigeons need to be really tough and he hasn’t antibiotic or canker treated for well over a decade now apart to some bought in birds which got canker.

I feel that it is an achievement that I didn’t use antibiotics last year in old birds. I’m quite pleased with that. It does give an idea which lines of birds are the toughest immune system wise from a genetic perspective. Doesn’t seem to matter if the birds are closely linebred or crossed, some birds just never show signs of breaking down and remember I’m a Veterinarian by training and I see things that many don’t, even without using a microscope, although I do have one.

I have also not treated my breeders with canker drugs or antibiotics the last 2 breeding seasons. I did treat the breeders against internal parasites recently and gave them some old baycox. There were some loose droppings and some birds were looking for salt which I’ve since been giving, just iodised table salt added to the fine oyster shell grit that I give them. I also have used Clements tonic at times during breeding in the water. I used this during racing in old birds too and even gave the odd bird some individually at times via a crop cannula and syringe. It can be effective in drying up runny noses. I use the green one with selenium, ginseng and ginkgo. This one probably supports immune system health better than the red one which contains iron.

I hope eventually to just have pigeons that need water, good feed, worm treatments occasionally and no other flock treatments. If you want to shift to the no dosing regime then if your loft has been treated for many years I suggest that the first year at least that you perhaps treat some birds individually with medicine as required. I haven’t done this with my racers last old birds but last year in young birds I decided to treat them leading up to our young bird National, the last race. I had prepaid as you have to, otherwise I would have stopped racing and let the birds clear themselves of any respiratory illness or wet canker. From April my loft environment changes from one giving superform very easily, to one which is a struggle to achieve form with unless there is dosing. It gets cold and windy here in the Onewhero hills and the roofing iron needs some internal insulation to eliminate condensation under the roofing. The lofts are also shaded by trees, which is good in the Summer. The roofing is alternating sheets of zincalume and polycarbonate. In Spring I get super form with the current situation. From October when the temperature and humidity increases the current loft situation isn’t perfect. Over this last Summer I have placed extra sheets of roofing iron on top of the polycarbonate to shade and cool the loft down and the loft doors are opened from mid afternoon to keep the temperature cool i.e. warm but not hot. Thus the humidity percentage is lower and this helps keep respiratory disease at bay by and large.

One thing that I will mention is that the birds had no training the whole season until the week of the Invercargill race in early December. This was just a 15km Glen Murray single up of the 6 birds that I was considering. Given that 750 miles to me shouldn’t be taken lightly, I in the end just sent the one bird, as did David Moors, his finishing 3rd and mine bird 6th. This 2 year old BCH of mine had flown Timaru-560 miles 2 weeks before. I have a youngster off her and 2 fresh eggs which I plan to feed out and let her moult out. I put her to a pretty good long distance cock. I am tossing up whether I will permanently stock her. I also bred off 6 other yearling race hens, mainly mated to stock cocks. Just a round each.

In reflection on the season last old birds I’d have to be happy with the results given the next to no dosing. It probably will take another 5 years (if I am spared) to hone onto the genetics within my own loft which lean towards stronger immune systems and gears the loft up to a high percentage of individuals which don’t need the standard treatments which most people give, some in abundance I might add! I already have alot of individuals that don’t show signs of breaking down the whole season and I’m aware of a couple of Janssen lines which are weaker in this department and can’t be raced as hard on just a deworming treatment regime. In 2013 old birds I plan to have some tossing for the long distance races. I was thrilled with the 2nd and 3rd from Timaru and 6th from Invercargill, but I would conclude that to perform well at the distance and I mean super well, as Mac does and Theo did from Timaru, that you just have to do it even if it is only 10 to 30 milers. If the weekends races or training flights on the Federation truck while away racing are on the nose enough at times, then you might get away with just plenty of loft flying and perhaps very short tosses. It is hard racing pigeons with this severe chronic illness. I don’t drive much so rely on my wife to train up young birds e.t.c. I’ve also, since January 1st this year, given up the anti inflammatory pain killers which I’ve been on for over a couple of decades and coffee too. I am choosing to grunt it out in painful times and its giving my liver a rest and there’s less rebound migraines.

In pigeons also we must always remember that nearly all medicines put pressure on the pigeons liver i.e. the organ of metabolism. The folk that dose alot need to take a step back and consider this and amongst other things, the future of their loft genetics. You won’t find the weaker lines of birds (immune systems wise) during breeding or racing, unless you allow a greater selection pressure of only deworming the birds. Remember, you can always find a compromising system by marrying the system that I am using with the use of a personal microscope or sending samples to a lab for analysis. This is to be favoured over ‘blind treatments,’ which I did for many years. Notwithstanding the terrific results my loft achieved at times in 4 different Auckland locations as an adult.

I will say though, that individual dosing would be my choice if I ever went down the dosing path again. This also allows you to select over a period of years for those individuals that don’t need the dosing (every loft has some of them). This way, you can still retain the lofts speed and endurance, as you have the choice to not breed off individuals that are less hardy immune system wise. Or if you choose to breed off such birds because they are superior for other reasons, then select from the offspring, those with a hardy immune system and tested by basket performance. This also enables the balancing of immune system defects when planning a mating by using a mate which has a hardy immune system. Of course there are environmental factors which help an immune system strengthen and gain antigenic/pathogenic experience. However my belief is that inherent starting material at the pigeons conception are highly heritable, even if it is a hard graft in the breeding loft achieving a high level of immune system hardiness throughout the whole loft.

I believe that it is a fallacy that all birds won’t achieve their potential without dosing. If you are serious about your lofts future, then perhaps you should look into it and consider my words and those of chaps like Ad.S on the matter seriously!

If you’d like to comment on any of the above it would be appreciated, just use the comments feature below or email me at

Auckland Old Bird 2012 Update.   1 comment

Mac Armstrong of Auckland’s most consistent Invercargill to Auckland pigeon last 3 years i.e. 2009, 2010 and 2011. On results sheet in all these races including 2nd to his BBC 2011 winner pictured at the end of this article. This 4 year old RCC was clocked 7.40pm on the 2nd day arriving with a 3 year old hen and was 1 hour 36 minutes behind his BBC winner. Liberation was 7am velocity 741m/min.

Hi everyone. Please enjoy the following article further down below which I wrote recently and is on the Elimar site i.e.

I started writing the account of our Fed Plimmerton race after the birds had been trucked down the Island. Naturally I hoped to do well in that race. Theo van Lier won both legs of the West Section in that race, well done. Don and Tira Campbell won the Western Union race from Raumati 2 weeks prior.

2 weeks ago we flew the Ward race from the top of the South Island. Colin Webster of Rata Lofts had the first 3 in the Fed Flock race and best 3 to Auckland. My hen won the Futurity Yearling race having come back from the north. So I was very lucky.

Additionally, Jim Cater won the West Futurity Yearling and Don and Tira Campbell the West Flock. Once again bad weather had been forecast, however it did not eventuate and the velocity was alot quicker than that expected at basketing i.e. 1319 m/min for Webster. I might add that Dave Driver, about 80 miles north of me had a super fly, 3 together too, good on you Dave. Results can be viewed I believe on our Fed site

This weekend there are 2 races from the South Island, Blenheim at the top and Christchurch which is the 500 miler. A cold front has spoilt things for a Saturday lib as expected but it will be fine tomorrow. I sent 60 odd to Bulls rather than race, so that got a 4.5 hour or more fly into them from 200 miles on the Thursday, since basketing was Wednesday night.

Next Federation races are Timaru which is basically a 600 miler in 3 weeks followed the next week by the Old Bird National from Christchurch, our 500 miler Classic. In 5 weeks we have our 800 miler, Invercargill. The Henderson Classic is being flown this weekend from Christchurch and it should be a ‘good to go’ tomorrow. This race has a real history and has always been very keenly, perhaps even fiercely fought over by flier and bird alike.

Here is the Elimar article by me. If you haven’t seen this site, believe me, it is 2nd to none in my view.

Mac and supportive wife Mary, can they do 5 in a row from our 800 miler Invercargill in 5 weeks?

Hi there from Auckland New Zealand. Old Bird racing is well under way over here and we have had 2 of our feature Federation races in the build-up to our 500, 600 and 800 mile long distance races.

We again ask the question, ‘Will Mac Armstrong and his birds remain Invercargill to Auckland Kings for a 5th consecutive year?’ This around 800 mile race is the last race on our programme and flown early December. This year Mac has kindly donated $2000 NZD towards the prize money.

Racing can be difficult here with changeable weather and often hilly and mountainous topography, a challenge for our pigeons. Often we are racing between cold fronts which may be 2 or 3 days apart. Obviously it can be very windy between these fronts. So it’s a challenge to our Liberation Coordinator Mr Jim Cater of Henderson and he’s doing a sterling job and really looking after the needs of our pigeons very well.

Naturally our pigeons need a certain amount of steady hit outs in their racing sorties to develop ‘match fitness’ to race 500 miles plus.

Leading up to our first feature Federation Old Bird race this season from Plimmerton near Wellington, the weather looked like it could be bad for the intended Saturday liberation, so during the week I was a little concerned about which birds to send. I have still not used any respiratory or canker medications and we are now up to our 11th race and that week was our 9th race. I have also not had any training tosses, so these things add to my careful attitude to what I send.

What I look for are bright clear eyes, beautiful silky feathers, well bodied, corky or just a little weight, chalky cere with clear nostrils and throat. Also a nice deep pink pectoral muscles indicating that everything is ticking over nicely in the metabolism and vascular systems. If the bird’s pectoral muscles are too tight, lack spring, and are too hard inside, then they don’t go to the longer 2 day baskets. Over the years one develops both the feel of what a winner feels like but also the feel of an unlikely candidate which is better left till the following week’s list of race candidates.

The Plimmerton race on 6th October 2012 was approximately 260 miles to me. It was a very windy race with mainly very strong westerly side winds but some north in it at times for the first few hours of the race, which is a headwind for us.

We basket Thursday for these races. On Wednesday and Thursday, I spent quite some time examining the birds to determine which were in good order, whilst continually looking online at forecasts. Subsequently, I decided not to send any ‘blow home’ birds. In the end, the very bad weather didn’t eventuate and we had a good steady race and fortune favoured my loft (Elley Family) with 1st, 2nd and 4th Federation Flock and 1st and 2nd Yearling Champs, so I was very happy, especially as conditions didn’t really suit my loft location, being a front marker and more to the west side. The velocity was 1170 m/min. 2 hens together, one a yearling and the next bird a yearling 4 minutes later.

This weekend we’ve had our first South Island ‘sortie’ for the birds and we strike off Sunday night. Once again I was very careful with what I sent. I am feeding roughly 20% NZ maple peas, 40% small maize, 30% mixed canary seed and some chicken layers pellets at times. I find this mix keeps a good body on the bird and that although I feed around 4 times a day, the birds don’t over eat and it’s similar to hopper feeding, only the sparrows don’t get any! While I’m feeding, I sit and watch the birds for 15 minutes, then remove the leftovers. I rarely handle the hens, so keen observation is a must.

My commitment to not dosing for canker or respiratory also adds to the challenge. Occasionally a bird will develop something. I just leave it in with the others and find the more that they get out flying the better. Solid immunity is what I am looking for in my pigeons both genetically and via continual low level exposure to pathogens. Fortunately we don’t have paramyxovirus here.

I also believe that as in Old Birds we are racing with increasing day length, we should harness nature’s rhythms and perhaps by only relying on the bird’s solid immunity that different birds will show up throughout the course of the four month long season. As a consequence, I believe that rest, good diet and some open lofts are the better protocol than medicines. Most birds will clear most common pigeon ailments themselves given time. My experience is that antibiotics tend to peak a loft, as in general, the birds can be worked or raced more following treatment. To me, it’s not the future of my pigeon racing. However, I do believe in treating the pigeons for internal parasites every 4 weeks or so during racing.

Once the racing starts I only let the hens out on the Tuesday for 4 to 6 hours and will make them fly a few times every hour or 2. This way they can fly up to 200 miles whilst out and since they are old birds I surmise there is no need for the tossing. My cocks tend to get heavy easily on this rich mix so they need to go out more often. Leading up to a big race some cocks will be caught to go out for a fly and the lighter ones kept in after their Tuesday afternoon fly.

The last month the weather has been gradually warming up and I’m lucky that I have someone cleaning my loft. On my visits to the loft I will alter the ventilation to what’s necessary for that period of the day to get fresh air flowing and get rid of any stuffy smell which will irritate the birds sinuses and nasal cavities.

As I have a difficult health situation I make use of the time when resting up by looking at my pigeon lists and planning my strategy for the next ‘big’ race and the long distance programme. I will add, that in between the longer 2 and 3 day baskets, we generally have a short race of 150 miles to me, but around 230 miles for the Federation back markers. Unless the bird has just had a pretty hard race they all go to that for a ‘hit out’.

The 150 miler is usually around 3 hours, sometimes 3.5 but it would be a different ‘kettle of fish’ for the fliers up north like Adrian Chappell and Dave Driver (both around 80 miles north of us Federation front markers). Adjustments would have to be made and their location is a big challenge for them in the Federation perhaps 90% of the time. They tend to need a faster finish type of race or simply get them well ahead of the rest of us. Not easy until the birds race from the South Island and maybe get split up by the amount of ocean they traverse amongst other things.

The Manaia Long Distance Club has real challenges when they join us for our Annual Invercargill race. This race is about 750 miles to me but 870 miles to Manaia lofts (about 120 miles further to the north). This race entails the birds traversing the Southern Alps at some place. It is the more direct route. When Manaia lofts fly Timaru it is around 700 miles and can be a pretty difficult race. So you can imagine the ‘step up’ to the challenge of 870 miles and it’s a similar ‘crucible’ to the Barcelona for the English lofts and an ultimate challenge for fancier and pigeons alike, requiring that special pigeon with special preparation!

My photographer friend Kim who also cleans my lofts has taken photos of Mac Armstrong’s winning pigeons from the last 4 years. He and his pigeons are our Auckland Federation Invercargill Kings. His birds have won this race of around 800 miles the last 4 years. My next article will feature these photos and is still ‘in the pipeline’.

Here is a photo of last year’s winner. It was clocked near the end of the second day. Mac told me the other day at our first South Island race basketing (Ward) that this bird is just ‘so clever’ and that he has decided to stock him. This rising 3 year old BBC was Macs first or second bird often in racing and is mainly of Jansen extract.

The winning bird 2011 Invercargill to Auckland for Mac Armstrong a rising 3 year old BBC, velocity 786 m/min.