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Herbots Geroeders - Halle Booienhoven


by Stefan Mertens






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Loft Managers































































Pigeon sport is Aliquis in omnibus …nullus in singulus

(Knowing a little bit of everything, but not entirely mastered)

 Halle-Booienhoven: There I am…at the front door of Dungelstraat nr. 37… before I pushed the doorbell, I quickly checked my appearance…interviewing champions of this caliber is not something I do daily and off course I wanted to make a good first impression. However I immediately experienced that my sweaty hands weren't necessary…I was visiting the Herbots family, with the emphasis on family and I got a welcome like nowhere else!
When I was standing at the entrance my first impression was that you can find 2 worlds in 1 building. Looking left, the office area of the Herbots Company can be found. The trade in pigeons and products (Herbots Animal Products) is running at full speed. Fixed and mobile phones are demanding the attention of several fellow workers with the known ringtones. Going right, you enter the quiet pigeon fancier's area of the beautiful building…although quiet…quiet because we are paying our visit in a 'calmer' period of the year. The moulting has mostly passed, the winter breeding hasn't started yet…a bit more time can be given now to a reporter. In front of me there was Filip, Miet and Jo Herbots…I could start asking my questions.

Satisfied with the season of 2015?

Filip: "Yes, extremely satisfied…and I'll immediately tell you why.  End of last season we transferred different good pigeons to our breeding loft. Here with a national winner and 2 Olympiad pigeons. I don't have to say that it is always anxiously waiting to see whether the new favorites can live up to it and now we can say…they can. I also want to say directly 'chapeau' to our loft manager Geoffrey who is perfectly assisted by Bjorn and Maarten."

 Don't you have to start with your best pigeons at the beginning of the season?

 Jo: "Normally yes… but you may not neglect the strength of your breeding loft. These 4 toppers have a list of honor of several pages long. They raced 17 to 18 races yearly over different seasons. They don't have anything left to prove on the races and as we believe that 'good ones come out of good ones' we have given them a breeding spot at the breeding loft."

How big was the racing team in 2015?

 Miet: "As you know the old and yearling birds are being played on total widowhood and who chooses for this system automatically has a bigger racing team. If we open the doors of the racing loft about 150 heads are looking into our direction. 65 cocks and the rest are hens.

I know it is against your 'pigeon strategy' but are you pro or contra a result where only the first 10 given pigeons matter?

 Jo: "We should find it positive in getting such a result. On one condition…they can't take away the pleasure of pigeon fanciers who like to play with a lot of pigeons.  Another question is; whether it is a good thing in getting two official results in your mailbox.

I know the reaction of the 'small fancier' that is angry because he lost the 1st prize because fancier X took the gold with his 56th given pigeon. I can't judge other lofts, but here a 56th given pigeon can easily be the 4th given pigeon. We only put our first 3 given pigeon in separate caves. All the other pigeons will be given off at random.

 Miet: "Pigeon sport changed a lot over the years, but the structure of the game developed less quickly. You can ask yourself as a fancier whether the provincial borders must be kept in place, wouldn't it be better to have deep, but not that wide section, and so on…For the KBDB there still is a lot to do. But one thing has to be kept in mind and that is that every fancier likes seeing his name at the top of the results. For that reason we aren't keen on handing over doublings. Imagine that the combination of clubs you have to play in isn't that favorite for your loft, well, this local doubling can still make you happy.

 Tell me more about how you take care of old and yearling birds?

 Filip and Geoffrey speak together: "On the 6th of December when Sinterklaas makes thousands of children happy, all pigeons are being coupled. Breeders and racers can have a winter breeding. Before the hens are offering in laying a second time, they will be separated. One youngster stays with the cock and the other will go with the hen to the youngsters' loft. We never have a second coupling in springtime.

During the season as many cocks as hens are being raced. The national big ½ fond are flights marked in bright colors on our racing calendar. Who wants to perform well has to eat good as well and we don't look at a gram more when we are feeding the pigeons. During the flight season there will be 100% Koopman mix (Beyers) waiting when they get home. On Sundays it is 50% Koopman and 50% low protein Vandenabeele. On Mondays we have 100% Vandenabeele and again on Tuesday just a bit heavier with 50% Koopman and 50% Vandenabeele. On Wednesdays and basketing day Thursday we give 50% Koopman and 50% Briljant, always enriched with shelled sunflower seeds and hempseed.

 Medically seen there is the professional supervision of Raf. Every 3 weeks he does a checkup and if necessary he comes sooner. What we do a lot around here is giving eye drops. As well on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays all pigeons get an eye drop in each eye. These drops are being given on Raf's advice. On the day of basketing all pigeons get a 'yellow drop' in their throat. This system is being followed strictly as from the ½ fond flights.

When I look at the racing loft, I see spacious aviaries and inside there are ATX heating plates in every section

Jo: "Indeed…coincidence or not, but since these 2 adjustments it went crescendo with the results of our pigeons. The heating plates are set on a temperature of 13, 5 degrees and a humidity of 70%. From April until the last race they can do their job.

The aviaries were being placed by recommendation of Gommaire Verbruggen. The hens are, after they've eaten and after the cocks have trained, being put in the aviaries for the rest of the day. The cocks can only go in the aviaries on Mondays. They can – if they want – take a bath. The other days the pigeons stay on their loft. It is so that a window on the inside is showing the aviaries. As all our lofts have a hallway, the cocks can't enter the aviaries but can enjoy the fresh air.

Is it true that you drive the pigeons that much?

Miet: "We used to…but this trend has gone by a bit. We concentrate the most on the game with the old and yearling birds and it doesn't matter whether you drive a lot or not. If you want to have great results with the youngsters you just have to. Look at the system of Raf and Kobe…the tire center has a good customer on them.

But claiming that we never drive anymore with the old and yearling birds would be a lie. If the weather allows it the cocks and hens are being released on Wednesdays at 30km. The hens go first and short after that the cocks can race home. Once home, the cocks and hens can stay together for 2 hours. Then they get separated and one day after, at basketing day, the hens are being put in the hallway of the cocks. After a few minutes the hens will be taken away and the cocks follow immediately.

How many young pigeons do you breed for own use?

 Filip: "For own use we breed about 250 youngsters. Even we experience a lot of losses amongst the young pigeons. We do everything to guard ourselves of too many losses and one of the actions we take is not to race them on each and every national flight. For this reason we will only put about 40 youngsters on each national flight, the others we race a bit more careful.

We put the early youngsters on sliding doors. Youngster that are weaned in April and May stay together. After the month of May no youngsters are weaned any more. They have to be able to moult in their birth year.

Talking about breeding…with 'Yvan' you have more than a super breeder on your loft. If I'm not mistaking his ring shows the year 2007. How are you going to secure his qualities over the next decennia?

Jo: "Good question…and according my opinion there's only one way and that is to couple him as much as possible with the same blood. Some off spring are being raced; others are going directly to the breeding loft. Over the last few years we sold only a few children out of 'Yvan'. Children and grandchildren have more than proven themselves in the races and for this reason we like to have more than enough 'Yvan family' on our loft.

We used to have two other top breeders on our loft namely the '155' and 'Number 1'. But at a certain moment they didn't breed anymore and we hardly had any children of them on our loft. We would like to avoid that scenario.

Just like the past years you've made a wonderful breeding book where all your top breeders are being presented. A book that will be distributed on fairs can be consulted on the website. Can you give a top 5 of top transfers anno 2015?

Jo: "We've invested heavily again in the best that was flying this season. Cracks "New Belgian Pride" are a true reinforcement. "New Belgian Pride" (B14-3027025) was raced at Marc and Geert Pollin and didn't win only 1e National Libourne (753km) against 5,890 year pigeons (fastest of 10,910b.) – 3e International Agen (799km) against 4,485 pigeons, but is also the 1e national Ace pigeon Long Distance yearlings KBDB 2015! Seldom seen so much class united in one athletic pigeon body!

Impressive are also the performances of "King of Sprint" (B14-2065003). "King of Sprint" became 1st National Ace Pigeon KBDB Sprint Year Birds in 2015, and this with an historic low coefficient of 0, 99% over 6 races. Vivacious detail "King of Sprint" was 12th National Ace Pigeon Sprint KBDB Youngsters in 2014. They don't make them any faster as this. The successful breeding lines of Stoces were discovered in the pedigree of "Fenomenale Chateauroux" (B14-2197422), winner of   1st National Chateauroux and fastest of 29,746b. ! The perfect match for our breeding loft!

Along with the hens "Barcelona Dream" (B13-3065806 – 2nd National Barcelona '15 against 7,791b.) and "Golden Barcelona" (B13-6130188 – 3rd National Barcelona '15 against 7,791b. and Golden Wing winner Brugse Barcelona Club), we can form a new golden Barcelona team. "Quitting" isn't part of the genes of these young Barcelona toppers. The long distance flights from the Rhône valley (FR) are mostly raced in severe weather circumstances. The heroes of these races need to have just a little bit more perseverance, show a little bit more character to triumph. With "Rhône Beauty" (B11-9109970) we might have the best Rhône valley pigeon ever on our breeding loft. "Rhône Beauty" became 1st Ace Pigeon Rhône valley national 2015 and 4th Ace Pigeon Rhône valley national 2014! We could give some more explanation about  "Blauwe Soontjens" (10 x 1st) – "Super Jaarling", "Young Olympic Buda" and "Sky"… but we like to refer for this to our brochure.

You as top fanciers…do you still learn something?

(Almost all 3 in harmony) "Off course...if we visit fanciers we will always keep our eyes and ears open. Pigeon sport is a top sport and with top sport every detail can be of significant importance. It is all about that small percentage of being better than the competition.
Even on our own loft we can learn. What did Johan Cruyff said 'every disadvantage has its advantage'…well, when we had a very bad flight our pigeons came home slowly one by one. Consequence was that some cocks or hens where without a partner for a long time and after a while they started to mate with other partners. When after one week the couples were being put together again we had to stay on the loft as there were a lot of fights. Without knowing an extra motivation was made…Cruyff is right!

 If you select pigeons…where do you pay attention to?

"The first selection master is the basket…nobody can look what's inside the head. After that we can form an idea about the beauty of the pigeon. Never select on 1 aspect…but if you ask us a good pigeon has to have thick and soft feathers, the balance has to be perfect and when you look in the eyes you must see fire. There has to be 'grinta' in the look of the eye.
Sometimes a pigeon has to grow out…they need a year to survive the moulting. It wouldn't be the first time that a young pigeon is a bit soft in the back and the tailbones are a bit open. Once a yearling pigeon everything has to be in place perfectly though.

Filip…a last question…I will lock you up for one day with 3 other fanciers and the only thing you can talk about is pigeons. Who would you choose?

 (thinks for a while …) "Gommaire Verbruggen, Gaby Vandenabeele and Leo Heremans. "

Filip, Miet and Jo…thanks a lot for your time and the best of luck!

































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