I’m going to start off with a very difficult question; who is the best middle distance racer from Belgium? Well, I’m going to get several different names and they all will have the right claiming this ‘officious title’. But I’m almost certain that the name of the current national champion won’t be amongst them, at the contrary, but as ‘small’ fancier he just doesn’t stand out. Etienne mostly goes to the club with a small basket. On the national races with youngsters (the category were he became national champion in) it were 9 pigeons, the maximum number of pigeons that he basketed that season. The critical readers amongst us could say; racing one year hard isn’t the way you earn a title. But if we have a look at his national palmaris of the Buyle colony you’d be surprised. The last five years this sympathetic habitant of Berlare ended up no less then 3x in the top 7 of a national championship! Underneath his impressive list of honour:
- 1st National Champion LD youngsters 2017
- 5th National Champion SMD youngsters 2013
- 7th National Champion SMD youngsters 2015
- 13th National Ace bird LD youngsters 2017
- 1st Provincial Champion LD youngsters 2017
- 1st Provincial Champion SMD youngsters 2015
- 3rd Provincial Ace bird SMD youngsters 2013
- 3rd Provincial Ace bird LD youngsters 2017
- 5th Provincial Ace bird SMD youngsters 2015
- 6th Provincial Champion MD youngsters 2017
- 7th Provincial Ace bird SMD youngsters 2013
- 8th Provincial Champion MD old-year birds 2017
- 9th Provincial Ace bird SD youngsters 2017
- 11th Provincial Ace bird MD youngsters 2017
In fact I can also tell you a nice anecdote about these national championships. When Etienne (61y.) went on an early retirement 5 years ago he made a bold statement. He gave himself 5 years’ time to get at least once in the top 10 of the national championships and to classify himself at least once on a national stage. And look, five years later his name is standing three times within the top 10 but especially his ultimate dream came through: National champion of Belgium!
A wisely build up breeding loft
Etienne is a man with a plan. If he looks for reinforcement for his breeding loft he looks at different aspects. First he has a look at the fancier himself, this one has to have more or less the same way of thinking as Etienne. Then the strain of the fanciers breeding loft is looked at. Mostly our national champion is looking for certain strains where he already booked successes with in the past. And in the end the pigeon itself has to be 100% what Etienne wants it to be. Pigeons with ‘defects’, how beautiful its pedigree may look, doesn’t come onto the breeding loft. And this is how about 18 couples are ready for the new breeding season of 2018.
It all started with pigeons from his father Frans. Together with Etienne, this father-son tandem did very well on a high level. Especially the short distance races was their thing. When Etienne started racing on his own, beginning of the eighties, he off course started off with pigeons from his father. He combined these with pigeons from Edmond De Kerpel and Van Gijsel-Smet. In the beginning he mostly raced short distance but at the end of the eighties our host also wanted to try the longer distances, but not at the sake of the short distance races. Also in this discipline he had some great results. The first real change came after the input of two marvellous pigeons. Namely a son out of the famous ‘Witstaart’ from Gerard Itterbeke. This one came on the loft through Octaaf Van Loo from Lokeren. The second important pillar is a grandson ‘Blauwbaard’ from Filip & Urbain Demuynck, Oosteeklo. “Blauwbaard” is one of the best birds in the East-Flanders pigeon history. This crack won three times the title of provincial Ace bird on the middle distance, I don’t think another pigeon ever managed to do that! Through the champion-duo from Zele De Maesschalck-D’Hondt the world famous Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons came to Berlare. These formed with a descendant of top pigeons “Home Alone” from Lucien Vandenbossche an iron strong strain. With “Den Tiek” as standard-bearer. Also a daughter from the nest sister of “Olympic Queen ( Jef Van Winkel, Tielt) came on to the breeding loft with big successes. Another big success was the input of the ‘Kannibaal’-pigeons. Etienne bought at the grandmaster Dirk Van Dyck a grandson of the world-famous ‘Kannibaal’. Also through the tandem Vanoppen-Luyten from Herk-de-Stad an inbred from the “Kannibaal” ended up at Etienne. And just as so many other champions Etienne’s eye fell onto the Leo Heremans-pigeons. Via another East-Flanders superman Marcel De Maere, a granddaughter ‘Di Caprio’ moved to Berlare. Through Etienne’s friend Marc Van Haute from Smetlede (also a former national winner and champion) a son of his top pigeon “De Krekel” (strain Derauw-Sablon) moved to his breeding loft. There are also direct pigeons from Luc De Maesschalck from Zele and Richard De Maesschalck from Laarne (strain Benny Steveninck). The last reinforcements, with the emphasis on reinforcement, DVV-pigeons from the national top champions, De Vroe-Van Gaver-Vandeputte, came on to his loft. That Etienne was convinced of the class of this pigeon colony is the least we can say. He bought about 40 pigeons (also different eggs). And there was a son from one of the stars of the DVV-colony, namely ‘510’. Together with some hens the DVV-pigeons made themselves immediately indispensable in the breeding strategy of our national champion.
A small but iron strong widow cock team
Since several years Etienne starts off with a small team of widow cocks. Also in 2017 this wasn’t any different. He started off with 15 cocks, six old and nine year birds. The old widow cocks were coupled at the same time as the breeders. This is how the widow cocks got the eggs of the best breeders to breed. Etienne had his ‘second’ round out of his favourite pigeons quicker this way. Once the youngster were old enough the 6 cocks moved to the aviaries. Beginning of February the nine year birds could go onto the loft (they also stayed in the aviaries during the winter months). They can then choose their own box. End of March they get the company of their older colleagues. They are all being coupled then and can breed for about 5 days. The widow cocks train twice a day with closed windows. These are being closed for about 3 quarters of an hour and during this time the widow cocks can do what they want. They don’t train really hard according to Etienne. But it occurred to him that they did train better this year (read longer). I’m not sure that he baskets ‘quiet’ cocks for his own comfort or for theirs, I’m not sure but the widow cocks don’t get any extra motivation before basketing, so no hen neither a nest dish is shown. He did all of that in the past but with this ‘peaceful’ method his results weren’t set back, at the contrary!
The youngsters system…guaranteed for success!
You can’t call the system that Etienne uses with his youngsters innovative. Many seasons now he does the same thing and when you have a look at his results…you can’t get any higher on a national level ! The youngsters stay together for the first few months. But after the first race out of Noyon (175km) the sexes are being separated, from then on it is the sliding doors system. Etienne takes his time to teach his youngsters very well. In small steps they go to 25 km. If they get home smooth from that distance they go to Quièvrain (71km) with the club. This ‘peaceful’ way of learning has a positive effect on the amount of losses. Etienne weens about 50 youngsters and at the start of the middle distance season he only lost about 10 of them. The youngsters train only once a day, shortly in the afternoon for about three quarters of an hour. When the important races come along, Etienne starts to use his magician tricks…his motivation technics. Open boxes and extra boxes, planks in different corners, carton boxes…all of this to ‘warm’ up the youngsters. Every year there are some that don’t want to pair up but even though they can have great results. It is according to our host the class of the pigeon that makes the difference; you can’t make a racing horse out of a farmers’ horse, can you?
Also in matters of feeding and side products there’s nothing special to mention. Etienne feeds most of the time the mixtures of Van Tilburg. He buys four different kinds; sport, protein-poor, purification and super diet. The feeding system during the racing season is the same for all of his pigeons (widow cocks and youngsters). The day of home coming they get three equal parts purification, sport and super diet. The next two days half is purification and half protein poor food. After these two days the feedings starts to be heavier bit by bit. The part of sport mixture will be increased day by day now. And to increase their ‘fat-level’ some parts of super diet is being added. To help the natural resistance the national champion likes to use some ‘old’ but still efficient methods: bakers’ yeast, linseed oil, red beet juice, garlic powder, apple vinegar and Jodaline ( an iodine preparation). Also Sedochol, Zell Oxygen and electrolytes from Herbots are being used to recover and/or bring the pigeons in top shape to the start of the race.
I could have better described this chapter as ‘Health’ as there isn’t much to tell ‘Medically’. Etienne is a proponent of the ideas of vet Fernand Mariën from Tielen. This vet is known for his natural approach and selection. To say it out loud; the ones who aren’t able to keep their health in a natural way are being selected out. This is how the breeding pigeons haven’t received anything since years now against trichomoniases. Neither the racing pigeons, both old as young, weren’t treated with antibiotics against this nasty disease. He did make use of ‘yellow drops’ as a treatment. This every two to three weeks, always two days in a row and always through the drinking water. He didn’t treat against head and airway infections. Once in a while the youngsters get an eye drop, the widow cocks have to manage without. And neither against paratypes is being treated preventively neither vaccinated.
A nice anecdote at the end of this chapter is the next story. The youngsters were doing fine. But when a friend went to the vet with his pigeons he asked whether he should take some of Etienne along (also some fertiliser). Etienne agreed although there weren’t any complaints, a check-up against trichomoniases and coccidiosis can’t do any harm. When his friend came back the result was; no tricho neither coccidiosis but ‘something’ on their eyes. Hegot some medication against this ‘disease’. Etienne didn’t see anything wrong in their eyes and didn’t give the medication he received. These pigeons were being basketed a few days later and the result was superb….
An extra training for Argenton
At the beginning of the season there can be an extra training on the program. But once the nationals are in sight this isn’t being done anymore. But after Chateauroux III a friend came along with the question whether he should take Etienne’s pigeons along for a training flight out of Menen (this is for Berlare about 65km but very Westly). Etienne thought, it doesn’t hurt to try. Yet, he did have a certain premonition, a colleague fancier told him once that pigeons have to learn to race out of the West and it was already Wednesday, the day after they had to be basketed already for Argenton. The pigeons were being released in small groups at 9 o’clock out of Menen. The first pigeons were home after 1h and 12 minutes racing but the others came in bit by bit the entire afternoon. At early evening he still missed 7 pigeons with amongst them the star of the loft, the ‘521’. After many long and scary hours he reached his loft at 19:15. So basketing the next day for Argenton was no go. The next morning he hold the ‘521’ in his hands, and he just felt great! Etienne started to hesitate, shortly in the afternoon, he checked him again and the ‘521’ his chest was nice pink and round…he decided, he would go to Argenton. But as his 4th pigeon, not as his first. But as you can guess, who was the first to arrive home…indeed the ‘521’ got home first with a 28th provincial against 4,802 pigeons as result.
With underneath results the “4131521/17” won the title of the 13th national ace bird LD!
- Bourges: 96th against 7,395b (prov.)
- Argenton: 28ste against 4,802b (prov.)
- Chateauroux IV: 30th against 2,535b (prov.) 93rd Nat. 12,150b.
Something else special; during the weekend of Chateauroux III the ‘521’ raced a Noyon. This wasn’t just ‘in-between’ for him as he proved himself once again by winning this race as the 1st against 152b.
The golden framework of the national championship
To win the national championship KBDB Fond young birds you need to take the best 3 results of your first two nominated young birds on 4 national races. You can take the provincial, Nationale zone or national result.
Etienne won with following results of his 1st and 2nd nominated young birds
- Bourges Prov. 7,395 b. 445 (2nd nominated.) 509 (1st nominated)
- Chateauroux III Nat. 18,499 b. 665 (2nd nominated.) 1,455 (1st nominated)
- Chateauroux IV Nat. 12,150 b. 24 (2nd nominated.) 505 (1st nominated)
Old and year birds
Toury 412 b. : 10, 15, 58 (3/3)
Toury 435 b. : 31, 45, 55, 62… (5/7)
Toury 235 b. : 6, 11, 32… (4/4)
Toury 272 b. : 9, 24, 30, 33… (5/6)
Toury 198 b. : 17, 18, 24… (5/5)
Toury 125 b. : 1, 5, 11… (5/6)
Toury 55 b. : 2, 5, 10, 11… (7/8)
Toury 123 b. : 4, 6 (2/2)
Toury 117 b. : 4, 10, 15 (3/3)
Toury 410 b. : 5, 41, 53, 62, 73, 75 (6/6)
Toury 167 b. : 3, 13… (3/4)
Toury 284 b. : 18, 25, 37… (4/4)
Orleans 291 b. : 11, 17, 24… (5/6)
Orleans 128 b. : 14, 22 (2/2)
Orleans 590 b. : 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 34, 53, 60, 66, 71, 84 (12/13)
Orleans 153 b. : 6, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29… (9/10)
Orelans 74 b. : 2, 5, 11, 15 (6/8)
Blois 122 b. : 7, 21 (3/3)
Blois 90 b. : 7, 14, 16… (5/6)
Blois 249 b. : 2, 6, 11, 16 (4/5)
Argenton 511 b. : 14, 54… (4/4)
Chateauroux 212 b. : 14, 19 (3/3)
Chateauroux 65 b. : 11, 12 (2/2)
Chateauroux 290 b. : 6, 10 (2/3)
Chateauroux 1,712 b. : 27, 47 (2/3)
Noyon 175 b. : 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 (13/21)
Noyon 144 b. : 1, 13… (5/8)
Noyon 222 b. : 1, 8, 9… (4/6)
Noyon 291 b. : 3, 6, 23, 31… (9/12)
Noyon 471 b. : 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 13, 15, 26, 27, 34, 36, 43, 45, 54, 56… (17/20)
Noyon 304 b. : 3, 8, 17, 25… (10/12)
Noyon 232 b. : 2, 3, 10 (3/10)
Noyon 273 b. : 3, 12, 29… (5/8)
Noyon 147 b. : 1, 5, 6, 9… (14/17)
Noyon 520 b. : 5, 11, 12, 13, 25, 29, 35, 41, 50… (14/18)
Noyon 429 b. : 1, 6, 14, 15, 37, 38… (12/17)
Toury 232 b. : 3, 29, 36… (4/6)
Toury 593 b. : 14, 25, 51, 82, 108 (5/6)
Toury 436 b. : 1, 12, 13 (3/4)
Toury 720 b. : 5, 7, 16, 20 (4/5)
Toury 279 b. : 1, 4, 6, 23, 25… (8/8)
Toury 262 b. : 5, 23… (6/8)
Toury 475 b. : 13, 18, 19, 34… (10/16)
Toury 310 b. : 10, 31… (5/5)
Toury 163 b. : 1, 2, 7, 16 (4/5)
Toury 202 b. : 1, 8, 22… (7/12)
Toury 190 b. : 4, 7, 14, 18… (9/14)
Toury 130 b. : 1, 2, 3, 7… (7/8)
Orleans 685 b. : 1, 13, 25, 35, 37, 41, 53… (10/12)
Blois 480 b. : 5, 38… (3/4)
Vierzon 189 b. : 3, 17… (6/8)
Chateauroux 503 b. : 21, 45… (4/4)
Bourges 1,223 b. : 10, 27, 85, 97… (7/9)
Issoudun 388 b. : 25, 34… (4/6)
Chateauroux 513 b. : 3, 6, 19, 26… (6/6)
Argenton 788 b : 19… (3/5)
There’s more then pigeon sport!
Etienne always had a life next to the pigeon sport, although he always was and is very driven in pigeon sport. Enjoying life is written in capital letters in his dictionary. Especially, as a young grandfather he enjoys that young life next to him fully. But also get-aways are part of the enjoying…often during the weekends. He then can count on the help of some loyal friends like f.e. Marc Van Haute, Rudi Kerre and Clement D’Hondt, who help out with much pleasure whenever necessary. So he just can’t thank them enough for this help !!!
Congratulations with this marvellous title !
by Stefan Mertens