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Raoul and Xavier
Above the house
is the breeding
Birds just coupled
Oostakker: At the moment that we visited the General National Champion KBDB 2011, the new racing season had already begun. For short distance racers, this period is already the high season. The middle distance fanciers make themselves more than ready to start, and the long distance and very long distance racers still wait a little bit...
Raoul and Xavier Verstraete, the general champions KBDB 2011, already had the first tosses of their racing team behind them. Everything happens without stress. Every toss which is made is a step in the right direction.
The loft of Raoul and Xavier Verstraete is known as the “loft of the miracles”-- a name that they received in the eighties from a Belgian pigeon reporter named Clement Van Keymeulen. Those were the golden times of the famous pigeons like “De Gouden Bol,” “De Mirage,” “Meteoor,” “De Zilveren,” and so many others. The races between 150km and 500km were their speciality.
Although Raoul had so many top pigeons in his own loft, he was never afraid to buy other top birds. Hereby we think spontaneously of top breeders like “Rapido,” “De Panter” (both of late Theo Gilbert from Zulte), “De Elvis” (1st national ace), “Carl Lewis,” “De Miljonair,” “Bolide,” and “Admiral.” And of course we cannot forget the 1st national Bourges winner against 10,992 birds and the same year the 1st provincial ace middle distance 1989—namely “Uno.” In the last 20 years, that cock became father and grandfather of many very good middle-distance birds.
UP TO THE LONG DISTANCE RACES
Xavier says, “The last years we wanted to be the best on races between 600km and 800km. You know, liberated in the morning and at home late in the evening. Those races are now our target. They’re coloured in flour on the racing programme. The first years we basketted our middle-distance pigeons for those races, and I must say they performed well.
But, and now it comes, the first time they were in the top of the results, the second race they won prizes, and the third time we lost them. Certainly the line of the “Uno” had too much speed- and middle-distance blood, and they failed when the races became hard. There were too many middle-distance pigeons bred, and therefore we needed to search for more long-distance blood. Not every investment is immediately bingo, and therefore it took some years before we found the right crossings.
When we bought pigeons from Cas De Graaf (Arnemuiden) and Kris Hebberecht (Evergem), the results became suddenly much better. The two top breeding hens are without any doubt “Blauwe Kathy” and certainly “Geschelpte Kathy.” But also the “Cadillac” (who won himself 1st prizes and top prizes from 300km till Barcelona) and the “Grand Cru Uno” have proven their breeding qualities.
"Nowadays our top breeder is without any doubt 'Topstar' (B03-4242129). 'Topstar' is an extremely nicely build chequer cock who won the 68th national Beziers (900km) against 9,191 pigeons and also the 77th national Montauban (850km) against 7,303 birds. Those are very good results but (and that is maybe more important) the first youngsters that he brought into the world could also win first prizes, and for that reason I decided very quickly to put 'Topstar' in the breeding loft. This was the best decision I made in the last years, because meanwhile I already banded a lot of top pigeons out of 'Topstar.' His most famous son is without any doubt “Xtra,” who won in 2008 not only the 1st national Cahors but also the 21st national Brive against 14,521 old birds.
"Other successful strains are pigeons of Luc Waldack, Gaby Vandenabeele, Chris Hebberecht (line of 'Ike,' 'Pancho Junior,' and 'Champion'), Roger Debusschere, and Etienne Meirlaen. Did you know that the mother of the 1st international Narbonne by Etienne Meirlaen is 50% Verstraete!"
Xavier says, “Since 2004 we have followed the system of total widowhood. In 2003 we bred a nice group of youngsters. They performed very well, but at the end of the season it turned out that the best pigeons were all hens. What now? I discussed everything with my father and I said that I wanted to race with hens. ‘What!’ he answered. ‘Again more pigeons! Forget it. If you do that then you can start without me. I’m not keeping more pigeons. More pigeons mean more work. No, my son. Forget it.’"
But you know how that goes. A few days later he was open to a new discussion, and after some time we decided to follow total widowhood. I could race hens, and there were not more pigeons in the loft. Everything went well and the team of hens performed well. We clocked several times one or more hens before the first cock was present. Those hens also performed well on the long distance.
"Our system has no fixed rules. I call it the system of chaos. It all starts with the number of cocks and the number of hens. Maybe you will not believe it, but for the racing season 2012 I have 25 hens and 65 cocks to race. I don’t have enough hens. What am I going to do? Well, all old cocks are coupled to a hen. This hen is a hen which is also raced or a hen which stays home. The year birds will be raced following a chaos system. First I’m going to see which birds like to come home, and then it is up to us to motivate the right cock at the right moment and hope he will make a top result."
"Blue Ace" wing
Xavier explains, “For a few months I have enjoyed a pre-retirement system, so I can make more free time for the pigeons. But although I have more time, I will try to keep the caring system as simple as possible. It starts with the cleaning of the lofts. In all lofts I have straw or gratings on the floor, so I don’t lose time with cleaning. I only have to clean the boxes. I like straw on the floor because straw keeps the dust down and this is not only good for the fancier but also for the pigeons.
"Speaking about lofts. Our loft for the racing birds is 35 years old and built in two floor levels. The roof of the pigeons housed on the first floor is the floor of the pigeons housed on the second floor, so ventilation above the birds is not possible. The loft is only open at the front side and further there is no ventilation. Well, these lofts are my best lofts!
"Although my widowers are housed in several lofts I don’t race them per loft. So on a race there are always several birds basketted from several lofts. This way of racing makes it complicated for feeding all the birds in the right way, but I have developed my own method. As a base mixture I use a protein poor mixture. I feed all the birds together in a feeder on the floor. The birds which have to be fed up are separately fed in their box, with a heavier (racing) mixture. The racing hens get also this protein poor mixture, but I mix in 20% barley. The hens are only fed up during one or two meals.
"I use the by-products of the German brand Klaus. A lot of ‘Jodium Jet 2000’ and apple vinegar is given.
On a medical level I try to give as little as possible, but I have to be honest. Without medication it is not possible to perform a whole racing season on a high level. Three weeks before the national races start I treat all the race birds for 10 days against parathyphus. This is only a water treatment, no vaccination. At the beginning of April, the widowers are coupled, and when they are coupled I treat for five days against trichomoniasis. Before the racing season starts, I treat for five days against ornithosis with Soludox. During the racing season, I will contact the vet when there is something wrong, and then I will follow his advice.”
"Every year I breed around 100 youngsters for my own use," Xavier continues. "My young bird system is a system like a lot of other fanciers have--nothing special. The cocks and hens stay together till three weeks before the first national young bird race. Afterwards the sexes are separated, and the youngsters are raced following the system of the sliding door. We like to toss our young birds very soon. Middle of April, when the weather allows it, we have already tossed them. In little steps we go further and further.
"The youngsters are darkened from the middle of March till mid-June. Afterwards we give them extra light until the last national race (at the beginning of September). We like to race to win championships, and therefore it is very important that we score good points with our 1st and 2nd nominated young birds. For that reason we bring each year about 10 young birds in nest position. It is easier to nominate young birds in nest than young birds which are raced on widowhood. Certainly the line of 'Topstar' has the habit to win top prizes when they are in nest position.
"We prefer that the future widowers have enough experience as a young bird. Young birds that fly several national races in their year of birth are more experienced than young birds that were only basketted on short-distance races. The first one went to the university, the others to a normal school!”
ALGEMEEN NATIONAL CHAMPION KBDB 2011
To become general national champion KBDB, you have to take the best 11 national races with your first nominated pigeons. These 11 races are two very long-distance races, three long distance races, one race with yearbirds (can be chosen from the national races among Libourne, Argenton I, Limoges and Tulle), two races with the young birds (can be chosen from Bourges, Argenton II, La Souterraine and Gueret), one short-distance race with old or year birds, one middle-distance or great middle-distance race with old or year birds, and one race with the young birds at the middle distance or short distance.
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Raoul and Xavier won this championship with following results and with a total coefficient of: 31.40%
199 national Narbonne 6,428b. son “Topstar”
193 national Perpignan 5,591b. son “Topstar”
24 provincial Cahors 1,589b. grandson “Uno”
64 national Montauban 9,091b. son “Topstar”
6 zonal Souillac 2,507b. grandson “Uno”
35 zonal Limoges 6,706b. granddaughter “Topstar”
308 zonal Argenton 6,979b. grandson “Topstar”
49 zonal La Souterraine 6,010b. son “Xtra”
19 Noyon 336b. granddaughter “Topstar”
3 Chateauroux 4,571b. Waldack x Hebberecht
21 Angerville 338b. grandson “Topstar”
Raoul and Xavier, we wish you all the best in the 2012 racing season!
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