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Cauter - Plas
With Schellens Pigeons
to the Top
by Stefan Mertens
Elma Plas and
Manu Van Cauter
The world is so small. I remember it like it was yesterday, having an
appointment with our very good friend Ed Minvielle to visit some top Belgian
lofts. After we visited a few lofts, we took a short break to drink a
cup of coffee. During that coffee break, we talked about pigeons, of course.
Ed was talking about his stock birds (which I personally find from very
high quality) and suddenly he mentioned that he was very successful with
pigeons from Jean Reynckens (Flemalle - Belgium) and more specifically,
from the line from his famous "Supercrack." That cock (ring number 1013240/95)
was the top sprint pigeon from Belgium in 1996.
He won the following top results:
1st Macquenoise (113 km) against 1093 birds
1st Soissons (203 km) against 2078 birds
1st Vervins (140 km) against 894 birds
2nd Laon (162 km) against 829 birds
3rd Saint Witz (269 km) against 1281 birds
4th Macquenoise (113 km) against 1036 birds
When we look very closely at the pedigree of the "Supercrack" then we came to the name of Van Cauter-Plas (Aalst). I told Ed that I knew Manu Van Cauter and Elma Plas very well, and that we were not so far away from their loft. Ed was really surprised and wanted to visit that loft as soon as possible.
One phone call later, we went to the Keienberg in Aalst to see Van Cauter-Plas. Ed was more than surprised about the quality of pigeons he had in his hands. And while Shereen was looking at the fine art, Ed and I had a chat about the pigeons with Manu Van Cauter from which we give you a report.
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Question: When did you start with racing pigeons?
Answer: The father of my wife, Elma, was a pigeon fancier. He started in 1949 with racing pigeons. From 1960 until 1976 we raced in combination. This was in Hekelgem, a few miles from Aalst. In 1977 we moved to this house and started in our own name.
Question: What strains do you have in your loft?
Answer: My old base is the pigeons of my father-in-law. To be correct, I need to go back to 16 November 1958. On that day we bought two black cocks. They were from the strain Cominnes (Leers Noord) X Vanbruaene Andre (Lauwe). But that is of course long ago. It is logical that we bought other pigeons. These always came from very good fanciers, and I must admit the crossings always did very well. But in 1996 I made the best investment of my life. Namely, I bought pigeons from Karel Schellens (Kessel). I still remember my first visit to that "wonderman." I was so impressed by the quality of those pigeons. Such a quality of feathers, wings, eyes, really unbelievable. Combine these things with magnificent racing results, and I must admit, I was immediately in love. And that was not all. The first youngsters I bred from those Schellens pigeons put some phenomenal results on paper. For those reasons I went back to Kessel to buy pigeons again. In all, I bought more than 80 original Schellens pigeons and now at this time I still have 50 Schellens pigeons in my loft.
Question: With which lines of Schellens did you succeed?
Answer: For those who know the Schellens pigeons a little bit, they know that "De Argenton" (B83-6114062) and "Bibberke" (B85-6043216) are the parents of the world famous "Nationaal I." Well, I have two sons and three daughters from this couple in my breeding loft. Also from the "Nationaal I" there are a son and a daughter in my loft. I bought those children before the "Nationaal I" was sold. I must say that I succeeded very well with the son of that super cock. But that's not all. From "Bibberken" (mother "Nationaal I") I have a brother (B87-6069499) and a sister (B87-6069622). Together with a "daughter Fenomenale" (B83-6114117) they gave the B91-4850104, a real top bird with top results as 1/124 - 2/125 - 3/653 - 5/527 - 7/714 - 8/2488 - 9/609 - 12/2377, and so on.
Another breeding bird is the "B88-6069640." That cock comes from "Broer Bibberken" (B86-6260630) with "dochter Fenomenale" (B84-4850139 - sister "Argenton"). So a son (B91-4850139) from that cock won 54 prizes (1/10) and was once 5th and once 10th provincial ace pigeon. In 1989 another son was 1st provincial ace pigeon, and his brother won 1/186 - 1/537 - 2/201 - 2/150 - 4/177 - 5/153 - 7/588. You must know that the "Supercrack" from Reynckens also comes from this bloodline.
A second line with good breeding is the line of the "Maes-couple," so named by Karel Schellens himself. From that couple we have two sons and three daughters. A lot of fanciers are successful with pigeons from this couple.
And then there are of course those other famous Schellens pigeons like "Witstaart" (82-6043933), "Poot" (84-6154105) and "Windsor" (81-6430852).
Click on any
pigeon image for
Zoon National I
Zuster National I
Broer National I
On which distances do you race your pigeons?
Answer: I prefer to race on Noyon (150 km) and Dourdan (317 km). I have only 25 widowcocks, so this number of widowers is too small to have a team on the long distance also.
Question: Can you explain your widowhood system?
Answer: Certainly, my widowhood system is in a certain way "old fashioned." A lot of fanciers are coupling their widowers together with their stock birds (at the end of November or beginning of December), but I always wait until February 2nd. They breed a couple of youngsters and then they brood again for a maximum of five days. After that brood they are put on the widowhood system. The widowers always train twice a day. After their training they are fed separately. How do I feed them? Well, they always get Versele-Laga Racing Plus. I like that mixture a lot. The art is that you can keep your pigeons eating till the day of basketing, and therefore I feed a little at the beginning of the week and more at the end. I also give a supplement of fine seeds when basketing day is coming closer. Every Wednesday I put some Colombine Form-Mix (a mixture of amino acids and vitamins) on the mixture. The day before basketing is "vitamin day." Personally, I find it very important what I feed to my pigeons. The mixture they receive must be of top quality, otherwise you can forget it. Think about it. When you eat something that disagrees with you in the morning, you won't want to work hard during the day, and you'll feel ill. Not only the amount of mixture you feed is important, but also what you feed. By this I mean that you have to give a mixture rich in proteins during the breeding and moulting season, and a mixture rich in fat during the racing season. If you are feeding the opposite, you are certainly heading the wrong way. I can assure you of that.
Question: What do you do to keep your pigeons motivated during the whole season?
Answer: I do several things. Once I visited a great champion, and I also asked that question. I'll never forget his answer. "Variation brings motivation," he said. So that is also my answer to your question. Listen, in the beginning of the season I don't do anything special. The hens are always shown to the widowers on the day of basketing, and that motivates them enough. Once I see that they can use a little "push" I bring variation to the loft. This means that the hens are shown, but in a different way. One time, I will just put a basket with hens in the loft. Another time, I give "strange" hens to the widowers.
Another way to motivate the widowers is to motivate them regards their territory. When there are empty boxes in the loft, you can open them, or you can put some extra shelves in the loft. Every little trick can help to put a top result on paper.
Question: Manu, you're also a master with the young birds. Can you explain your system?
Answer: Every year I breed some 80 youngsters for our own use. The youngsters are put in one loft (5 meters long and 2 meters deep) and they stay together for the rest of the season. So here you will not find an "open-door" system. Every week the youngsters are basketed for Noyon (170 km) or Dourdan (317 km) and between the races I train them two or three times at 30 km. When the youngsters have to fly a lot, they don't have the intention to start a nest. So most of the time, they are basketed from their shelves.
I don't follow the darkness system. From the moment that the youngsters start to moult, I stop racing them. Their future as a widower is very important to me. At the end of the season, when I select the youngsters, I look a little bit at the pedigree. When this is combined with some top results, then I don't doubt a second to put that bird in the widowhood loft. As young birds they must show that they have the character, that they have the will to come home.
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The medical scene. How do you handle that?
Answer: Fanciers who say that they don't give any medications are lying. It's that simple. When pigeons are in the basket for a race, they come in contact with diseases, so you have to make sure that your birds don't become ill. For that reason, every two weeks I visit a specialized vet. I do that because I'm against preventive curing. When the vet says I have to give something, I'll do it. Otherwise, I don't give anything. I would rather pay 1000 Belgian francs every two weeks to a vet than to lose 5000 francs on a race.
Question: Is it important to buy other pigeons every year?
Answer: Yes, I personally find it is always very important to look for reinforcement. Listen, I have a very strong base of the Schellens pigeons, and I must say that every year I couple those pigeons together to keep the Schellens blood intact. But every year I buy one or two pigeons which I cross on the Schellens base. The pigeons I buy have always made very good racing results and must be "beauties" in the hand. If they don't fulfill these things, I don't need them. And after two years, I know the result. If their youngsters don't fly very well, the whole family is immediately selected out.
I can assure you that it is not so easy to find good pigeons. Last year, I bought pigeons from several top fanciers, but the results were not always good. With the pigeons from one fancier, I succeeded very well, namely Arthur Neirinckx from Geraardsbergen. He's a fancier with a small number of birds, but the quality of the pigeons is very high.
Question: Can you give your best results of the last ten years?
Answer: No problem, because results say more than words about the quality of birds which are sitting in the loft.
Results from Noyon:
978 birds: 1 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 10 - 27 - 30 - 39 - 50 - 65 - 88 - 92 - 103 and so on (35 birds basketed)
504 birds: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 13 - 14 - 18 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 25 - 41 and so on (27 birds basketed)
213 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 11 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 18 (14 birds basketed)
574 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 10 - 12 - 15 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 21 - 224 - 26 and so on (33 birds basketed)
584 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 10 - 13 - 14 - 20 - 23 - 25 and so on (38 birds basketed)
537 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 22 - 29 - 42 and so on (13 birds basketed)
653 birds: 2 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 9 - 10 - 12 - 13 - 17 - 19 - 22 - 23 - 26 - 31 - 32 - 37 - 43 - 45 - 46 and so on (36 birds basketed)
596 birds: 1 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 9 - 11 - 16 - 22 - 29 - 31 - 34 - 37 - 39 - 54 - 56 and so on (36 birds basketed)
252 birds: 1 - 2 - 6 - 8 - 13 - 16 - 40 and so on (25 birds basketed)
313 birds: 1 - 3 - 4 - 9 - 11 - 12 - 29 - 30 and so on (31 birds basketed)
438 birds: 1 - 2 - 5 - 10 - 11 - 19 and so on (22 birds basketed)
Results from Dourdan:
240 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 16 - 26 - 27 - 29 and so on (23 birds basketed)
431 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 20 - 29 - 53 and so on (20 birds basketed)
334 birds: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 16 - 42 - 52 - 70 (13 birds basketed)
643 birds: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 15 - 16 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 24 - 32 and so on (42 birds basketed)
446 birds: 1 - 2 - 6 - 8 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 18 - 21 - 23 - 26 - 35 - 37 and so on (40 birds basketed)
133 birds: 1 - 2 - 5 - 7 - 10 - 41 - 53 (10 birds basketed)
470 birds: 1 - 8 - 14 - 22 - 26 - 33 - 41 - 45 and so on (16 birds basketed)
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