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1st National Champion KBDB
by Ed Minvielle
For a lot of fanciers the name of this Belgian city might ring a bell,
because in 1950's the world-famous fancier Hector Desmet, who was from
here, was the man to beat nationwide. Many remember his superb cock "De
Prins" who was more than just a top bird. He was a legend in Belgium and
indeed throughout the world. Today, the "Hector De Smet dynasty" is over.
Perhaps there is a new champion on the horizon who will emanate from Geraardsbergen,
and maybe 2006 was his "coming-out" party. We are very proud
to state his name, as it is Stefan Mertens, the very Stefan Mertens who
has been writing articles for our Siegel's website for nearly 6 years
now. Stefan has written many articles about top European fanciers for
our site over the years. Now it is time for us to write one about him
for he is the reigning Belgian National Champion for 2006 in the
category of middle distance for young birds!
This is quite an exceptional feat, as over 40,000 Belgian lofts compete in this category. Stefan is living proof that despite a busy job (he works for the Versele-Laga Co.), that provides little free time and a very small loft, it is possible to compete against (and beat) the mega lofts that have a lot of money and manpower! So, this month, with great pride for our good friend, we've turned the tables and the writer is now the subject…
To win this national championship a fancier must take the best five results with his first and second nominated young bird on races south of Paris (300km) and not further than 450km. Only one result per weekend can be counted and, in total, each competitor must have10 weekends in which such results are computed.
Stefan will be honored as National Champion during the 2007 Olympiad in January in Oostend, Belgium, and I will be there to celebrate it with him. It will be a triumph with a tear, though, because it will be exactly one year to the day, that Stefan lost two of his close Versele-Laga colleagues, namely Valentin Mandica and Zolt Kajtar, during the exhibition center roof collapse in Katowice, Poland. Life can be hard, very hard, and we all miss Valentin and Zolt very much, as Valentin had been in charge of our Siegel account for nearly 12 years and had become a good freind.
THE PIGEON SPORT WAS FORBIDDEN
Stefan Mertens is 36 years old. He was born in Aalst, Belgium, but in 1977 the Mertens family moved to Geraardsbergen. His parents built a nice home there, and when the garage was finalized a lost young bird racer found protection in it. Stefan took the bird in, and not knowing what to do with it, contacted a neighbour who was also a pigeon fancier. His name was Gustaaf Michiels.
Gustaaf was a very good short-distance racer, and in a short time Stefan was more often at Gustaaf's than at his own home. Cleaning the lofts and clocking the birds on Sunday, Stefan found his new hobby and got infected with the "pigeon virus." Stefan would have liked to race pigeons at own home, but his mother and father were convinced that good grades in school and racing pigeons would not be a good mix. Stefan was therefore not allowed a pigeon loft in the family garden.
But children grow, and when Stefan was 16, he worked at a vacation job, earning 400 Euro, (about $600.) With that money he was able to buy his first pigeon loft. The loft was allowed under one condition: no racing during the school period, only during the vacation. Stefan accepted the condition because he was so happy that his parents had allowed him to race birds at all. But our champion was so "pigeon crazy" that he managed to find a way to basket birds even during the school year. Stefan found it easy to do because his parents didn't know anything about the pigeon sport!
One day Stefan had a math examination at his schoool. His teacher, a Mr. Coppens who was also a pigeon fancier, decided to throw Stefan questions about the racing results of that weekend instead of the math questions. It seems Stefan had won the 1st prize that weekend beating his teacher Mr. Coppens, who had won the 2nd. The teacher was trying to tell Stefan that good school results and racing birds could not go together… shame on Coppens!
By the time Stefan graduated from school he was fully launched in the pigeon sport. His contact with Gustaaf Michiels strengthened, and he also became good friends with a Mr. Paul Schepens, who was a very good middle-distance racer. Thus, on Saturdays it was middle-distance races at Paul's and on Sundays it was clocking short-distance birds at Gustaaf's. Stefan's life was all about the pigeon sport.
In 1988, our friend came into contact with Eric Brootcoorens, a superb fancier who taught Stefan a great deal about the sport. In 1993, Stefan landed a job as a journalist for "De Duif" pigeon magazine of Holland (owned by Jan Hermans) and on December 1st of that same year, he started working for the Versele-Laga company as a commercial carrier. Eventually, Stefan became, together with Herman van Damme, responsible for everything which had to do with pigeons for Versele. (Other aspects of the Versele-Laga business pertain to dogs and other small animals.) Stefan is the perfect example of someone making his hobby his profession. He has now been at Versele-Laga for13 years, where part of his job is to attend the best known pigeon shows in Belgium, France, the U.K, and Germany. And since 1995 Stefan has never missed an Olympiad!
PIGEONS FROM EVERYWHERE
In 1994 our new National Champion made a fresh start at his own home. Young bird races were his main interest, and his loft was established with birds from Paul Schepens. But being in a position like Stefan's, a lot of fanciers were willing to provide him top quality birds. This came about partly perhaps because he was also writing articles about their lofts or because he was doing something special for them concerning feed or medical advice, etc.
The result was that Stefan began getting top pigeons from top lofts all around Europe. Names like Marcel Aelbrecht (Lebbeke), Eddy and Valère Vandepoele (Werken), Jean Meulemans (Teralfene), Gevaert-van Schoorisse (Ronse), Alain and Dirk Van Den Driessche (St. Lievens Esse), Van Damme-Boddaert (Oostkamp), Walter Meirhaege (Lembeke), Eric Brootcoorens (Idegem), Jean Van den Broeck (Relegem), and De Vadder-Valckenborgh (Haaltert) all gave Stefan top blood from their lofts to add to his collection. Stefan says that he is not afraid of a breeding loft filled with so-called "strangers."
Some of Stefan's most important breeding pigeons are:
"Marksken" (4934802/92) directly from the loft of De Vadder-Valckenborgh (Haaltert). "Marksken" is a son of the "Dikken" (20 x 1st prize) and won four times the 1st prize and was 14 times in the 1st ten prizes. This cock is father and grandfather of several 1st prize winners.
"Superke" (4069372/99). This nice blue hen is a pure Eddy and Valere Vandepoele hen. "Superke" was only raced as a young bird, and every week she arrived with the first pigeons but refused to enter the loft. Because she acted like this, she was stopped from racing, and at the end of the season when she had a nest, and was very motivated, she won the first prize two weeks in a row: 1st Noyon 362 birds, 1st Noyon 319 birds. She is a full sister of the "4069411/99," and that cock won the 3rd Dourdan against 1009b., 7th Toury against 514b., 9th Toury against 458b., and 12th Dourdan against 1002b.
Once in the breeding loft, "Superke" became mother of three different 1st prize winners and also grand-mother of three different 1st prize winners.
A son out of the coupling "Marksken" X "Superke" is the "Blauwe Stefan" (4011124/00 - won 1 x 1st and several top prizes). Out of the couple "Blauwe Stefan" X "Aelbrecht Duivin" (4333366/02) three different 1st prize winners have been bred thus far.
"Gameboy" (2135216/98). Again, a superb cock. Was only raced as a young and yearling, and as a yearling he won from Dourdan (300km) 1st against 459b., 1st against 428b., 2nd against 356b., 3rd against 660b., 3rd against 603b., 3rd against 271b., 3rd against 233b., and 4th against 499b.
"Van den Broeck Duivin" (2023854/01). A nice checker hen (a bigger type) but one with power in the wings. Only raced as a young bird and won: 1st Toury 432b., 2nd Toury 374b., 2nd Toury 352b., 2nd Toury 506b., and 5th Noyon 429b.
"De Jean" (2042199/05). Only raced as a youngbird and won six prizes in seven races: among them 9th Dourdan against 1079b., 4th Noyon against 610b., and 10th Noyon against 308b. From his first year in the breeding loft, he's already the father of "Gabanna" (four times in the first ten prizes and co-winner of the National Championship) and "Broer Gabanna" (co-winner of the National Championship). Also a hen from Stefan out of his third round was given to Guido Schoppmann (Germany) and was two times in the first 10 prizes in only four races.
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And we can go on, because there are also four children of the 1st National Souillac (van Damme-Boddaert), two daughters from the Olympiad bird "Guylian" (Henri Menten), three directly from Marcel Aelbrecht (Lebbeke--now two years in a row the 1st general champion KBDB ), and so on.
Stefan explains, "I have between 15 and 20 breeding couples and also 20 couples to foster eggs under. Both groups are coupled at Christmas. When the breeding couples have their second egg in the nest, the eggs of the breeders go under the foster couples and the breeding couples can immediately go again with eggs. By handling it in this way, I have four youngsters out of every breeding couple. After two years I know the value of every breeding couple."
"About 70 youngsters are weaned at the age of 25 days," Stefan continues. "Hens and cocks stay together until they have finished their second short-distance race (around July). The first month after weaning, the youngsters get a breeding mixture (Versele Start Plus I.C.). Three times a week I mix Colombine B-Pure (brewer's yeast) and Form-Mix in 1 (10 different oils) on the Start Plus I.C. I give brewer's yeast and oil very quickly because I want those young birds to get used to these products."
"Once I waited to give these products when the racing season was already started, and the youngsters didn't like the taste and stopped eating enough. Now I don't have this problem any more. Another important detail is that I feed the youngsters in a plastic dish. I do this because in a wooden 'feeder' there is always a chance for mold to grow, and of course that is not good for the birds' health. A plastic dish can always be cleaned very well, and that is best."
After the first month Stefan replaces the breeding mixture with Junior Plus I.C. He explains, "This is a mixture with a lot of paddy rice, which is very digestible. Again three times a week I put B-pure (brewers yeast), Colombine Digestal (a pro-biotic), and Form-Oil in 1 (10 different oils) on the mixture. At that same time the floor is covered with nice 'beanaw' and the traditional drinkers are replaced with the same blue drinkers which are used in the transporters and which are hanging in the race baskets, the babies have no hesitation to drink in the shipping baskets."
The interior of Stefan's loft is especially adapted for young birds. No perches, just the typical young bird boxes. Every evening, when it is almost dark, Stefan goes to the young bird loft and empties the drinkers, turning them upside-down, and with a little flashlight in his mouth he plays with his young birds. The fact that it is a little bit dark keeps the youngsters sitting in their box and after a "little fight" they can go to sleep.
If possible the youngsters come out at 7a.m. Stefan says, "Once they're outside, Junior Plus I.C. (40gr/pigeon) goes in the plastic dish and then I'm gone for work. I hear from my neighbours if my youngsters fly well. They have to enter the loft by themselves, and I must say they come in very quickly because if they don't do that they have no feed, and I feel that their having a hungry feeling is the best way to teach them something."
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March, the youngsters start going a whole day in the training basket.
Stefan explains, "I liberate them again in the lofts, but I just do this
to make them used to being transported in the basket. I also use the darkening
system. Here, I darken from the middle of March until the end of May.
This is because I want to be among the best racers from the first young
bird races on. I darken from 4:00 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. So, the young birds
wake up with the morning sun." Stefan uses a timer to make sure that the
rolling-shutter goes up or down automatically.
In 10 training tosses the young birds go out to 150km (or about 85 miles.) After two or three times to 150km, they go to the middle-distance races. After the second middle-distance race, the youngsters are raced following the "open door" system. Hens are on the left and cocks are on the right. On basketting day Stefan organizes a "big party." The motivation of those young birds is stimulated by creating of a lot of dark places in the loft.
Stefan says, "In 2006 I had only weaned 58 youngsters. On the first day a hawk caught one and 11 others were gone forever. A few weeks later I made a mistake by training the youngsters in a very hard tail wind, and again I lost a lot of youngsters. Then at the beginning of the young bird season, we had a few very hard races. Believe it or not, I ended the racing season with only 15 young birds (11 cocks and 4 hens)."
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| A WEEK DURING THE RACING SEASON
Stefan explains, "I basket the young birds weekly for the middle-distance races. When they arrive on Saturday from the race they always receive pure water. Only when I feed the young birds (about a half hour after arrival), I put Recup-Lyt or Fortalyt (electrolytes) in the drinkers. As a feed they receive Versele Superstar Plus I.C. and Form-Oil in 1 and B-Pure from Colombine. About three hours after arrival, I give all the birds a mandatory lukewarm bath. Before putting them in the water I put some Colombine mucous powder in their beak, and I give them Fabry Forma drops (black drops)."
"Again on Sunday they get Versele Superstar Plus I.C. and Recup-Lyt in the water. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I feed 50% Super Diet and 50% Gerry Plus I.C. On those days medication is provided. On Thursday and Friday I feed Superstar Plus I.C. and Energy Plus I.C. Dextrotonic (from Oropharma) goes into the drinkers."
"On the medical scene," Stefan continues, "I have full trust in vet Wim Boddaert. After weaning, I treat the youngsters for eight days against trichomoniase (Tricho Plus - 1 sachet in one liter of water). I enrich this with Colombine Glucose+Vitamins for a better taste. For the rest I don't do anything special, but Theraprim (Oropharma) is standing ready if the adenovirus attacks. If this disease attacks, I treat for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 days.
Stefan explains his two-week system during the racing season: "In the first week I treat against trichomonaisis. This treatment is always done with tablets (Tricho-Cure or 1/6 Flagyl). In week two I treat against ornithosis and I work with four different products, namely Orni-Cure, Amoxicure, Linco-Spectin powder, and Tylan. Once I injected a youngbird with Linco-Spectin liquid. The man who baskets says, 'this will be the winning bird.' But my 'hope' was for nothing because the young bird arrived the day after."
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The eye of
Closer look at
The eye of
| "NATIONAL CHAMPION" WITH THE FOLLOWING
07.15.06 Toury (320 km) 405 birds: 1st nom. 7
2nd nom. 1
07.22.06 Pithiviers (312 km) 375 birds: 1st nom 2
2nd nom. 3
08.05.06 Pithiviers 498 birds: 1st nom. 9
2nd nom. 10
08.12.06 Orleans (340km) 173 birds: 1st nom. 15 2nd nom. 14
08.19.06 Toury 310 birds: 1st nom. 8
2nd nom. 9
The two most important youngbirds were without any doubt "Dolce" (B06-4039278) and "Gabanna" (B06-4223607)
"Dolce" was basketted 10 times and won 8 prizes, six times in the first 10.. 1st Toury 405b., 3rd Pithiviers 375b., 9th Pithiviers 498b., and 8th Toury 310b. etc…
"Gabanna" was also basketted 10 times and won 9 prizes, five times in the first 10: 7th Toury 405b., 2nd Pithiviers 375b., 10th Pithiviers 498b., and 9th Toury 310b.
Click here to go to the pedigree of the dam of "Dolce"
Click here to go to the pedigree of the sire of "Dolce"
Click here to go to the pedigree of the dam of "Gabanna"
Click here to go to the pedigree of the sire of "Gabanna"
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