Farm Life by Adam Georgelin – Beginners to Winners – July 2016 – Volume 1, Issue 1
Farm Life by Adam Georgelin
THE success of racing pigeons is said to come down to three main routines, breeding, feeding and training, each as important as the next. I sat down with Bendigo pigeon federation flyer and 2015 combine aggregate point’s winner Rodney Clarke to get his opinions and some tips for all us novice pigeon flyers as well as handy hints for novice and experienced flyers alike. Rod grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and as a young boy Rod would ride his bike to friend’s houses and spend hour upon hour handling birds, breeding bird and training birds to home. Rod got his first pair of racing pigeons from Fernando of Wingpower. Rod began competitive racing pigeons with the Victorian Racing Pigeon Union in the late 1980’s; he had many years of racing with reasonable success. He’s main family of pigeons where of “Aussie Bloodlines”. Rod also had another interest at this time. Greyhounds.
In the late 80’s early 90’s Rod began racing greyhounds. His experience with keeping, racing and breeding pigeons transposed to his success on the track with his greyhounds and the pigeons went by the wayside for a period of time. One dog in particular sticks in his mind. Hyde Park. “She was my girl, I’ve named my current greyhound complex after her” Rod explains. In the years since Hyde Park’s passing Rod has moved to a 30 acre property 40km North East of Bendigo where Rod now breeds/raises and trains greyhounds as a full time job. He also has regained his passion for the pigeons. “Greyhounds are my living, but pigeons are my life.” Rod laughs. Aside from the state of the art greyhound kennels the property is set up with a 4 compartment stock loft with 6 pairs in each, and a magnificent wire floor race loft on stilts. This is where the magic happens. Rod explains that “dry living conditions, and air flow through the lift” are key to not only breeding healthy young birds but continued health through the life of your racing and stock birds.
There are no rules for breeding a successful racing bird, theory says that the better the breeding of a bird the better racers they “should” produce, but there’s no rules. Rod tells me the only rule he has is “start with your breeding team in peak health prior to breeding season.”
Feeding on the other hand is very involved. It always amazes me how much mystery still surrounds the feeding of racing pigeons. Most grain blends that fanciers use have resulted from trial and error over the years. A large majority of fanciers still don’t know why they use a particular seed mix other than the fact it seems to work for them. Many trainers don’t want to change a mix simply because it is the one they have used for years and they have won races while using it. It is no doubt confusing for the novice because they can and often do receive conflicting advice from different established and successful fanciers. Rod confirms this telling me “No two trainers feed the same seeds in the same way, feeding race birds is a day to day process, on cold days the birds need fattier seeds to produce energy than they will in warmer weather.”
Although it takes years of reading peoples experiences and trial and error in your own loft, the more a fancier deviates away from the best known diets, the harder it is for the birds to do well. Some birds will still win when fed on other diets; this is why all the variations on feeding have developed.
Because they have other factors in their favour even novice flyers can have success and even win races. Exceptional genetically developed young birds or being under the watchful eye of a particularly good flyer can at times compensate for a lack of knowledge in feeding, “but not feeding a good well balanced diet just makes it harder.” It is said that the best diets need to contain 12-14% protein. Racing diets also need to include large amounts of energy for performance; these are provided in the form of fats and carbohydrates. “Once you have got the hang of feeding young birds, then it’s time to start training athletes.” Rod jokes.
With training comes a change in feeding. 2015 was Rod’s second year back on the racing pigeon track. Rod has a theory. “Feed heavy and train hard.” A theory that didn’t totally pay off for Rod in his first season back racing. “I was getting results from the team in the races, but the harshness of the conditions, smaller race release numbers, and the vast numbers of predators on race day as well as day to day training took a toll on the team and midway through the season I had to retired the team. As the trainer you have to remember that the pigeon’s body is not a machine and even though some fanciers succeed in getting there birds to function like a machine, they can only perform for a limited period of time. By adjusting your feeding system to suit your training methods you will find that it is possible to reduce the amount of training given and still have your pigeons in the desired condition on the day of basketing.
Determined not to let it beat him Rod decided he would learn from his 2014 season and woulcome back with a vengeance. Rod declared he would win the aggregate. Over the breeding season Rod scouted the area for safe release points for the upcoming training and devised a plan to train in two teams. Although a little more work and organisation this plan paid off. Winning 4 of the 14 races and finishing either second or third in a further 6 races. Rod won the 2015 aggregate with 113 points.
All in all to be successful in the sport of racing pigeons it is essential to learn to know each pigeon individually, no two pigeons are alike and since the quality of pigeons varies so considerably breeding, feeding and training must vary to suit.