Johan De Meulemeester (Zulte) crowns himself General Champion KBDB 2020 Extreme Long Distance! On the road for Zulte, on the border with Waregem, I was thinking of something. Would it be something in the tap water in Zulte and environment as they race so hard on the long distance and extreme long-distance races over there? Johan De Meulemeester is General Champion Extreme Long Distance KBDB in 2020 and just a walk away you can find the Ace Bird Extreme Long Distance at Marc Verschelde?  A few kilometres from Johan, namely in Kruisem you have Marnix Leutenez that won in 2019 the general championship extreme long distance KBDB…. But once I was on the lofts together with Johan and got to see a few breeding and racing pigeons I thought of a saying that great champion: ‘there are 2 kind of pigeons like as there is in wood namely firewood and hardwood and you have to throw firewood in the fire’. He meant by this that quality is crucial to get to the top, to be at the top and to stay at the top. Well, on the lofts of Johan you find hardwood, top-quality from the highest calibre! Feet on the ground please? Johan (53 yrs.) lives with his wife and 2 children on the farm of his parents. Everything was renovated thoroughly and renewed, and it is quiet and good living. Space enough to survive a few lockdowns without getting bored. Johan was born in a nest dish and learned his first steps from his father with whom he raced until 2016 in tandem. But the 10 years before the passing away from his father it was already Johan who took care of everything what the pigeons was concerned. ‘Congratulations Johan’ is being answered with a humble:” yes, thank you, I almost forgot with all the other social issues.” An answer that is typical for Johan, the simplicity himself and very lovable social wise. No words but deeds. It is his hobby that he practises with a lot of passion, but that also gets the place it deserves namely family, health….and then the pigeons. Which doesn’t take anything away ambitious wise to be able to get on the national and international podia on a yearly base. With a good cup of coffee, he looks back on the past season and admits that you must have the ‘lucky fairy’ on your side if you want to clock your 1st and 2nd given pigeon on the extreme long distance, but that you also must have a loft of pigeons where you know off what they are capable of and what their ‘instructions to use’ are. Johan doesn’t lose a lot or no pigeons at all on the tougher races. Asking for the reason we get to the quality of the strain, breeding out of proven pigeons, selecting out of pigeons that never give up and don’t ‘burn up’ youngsters in their youthful years. Long distance pigeons just need that bit more time to grow out and to show their strength fully. Once they grow up and got their ‘driver’s license’, then you can ask a lot from them without breaking them. Very simple if you listen to it, realizing this is something else and asks for holding on to a vision and executing it. There is no magic or no miracles to be found here During our talk I say to Johan that we see each other a lot on the several championship days. Unfortunately, we will have to miss this the coming weeks and months. And yes, indeed, mostly Johan is present as he is being lauded, must go onto the podium, and wins the prizes. You only get on podia when you have real outliers (a 1st National or something like that) and/or wins rankings. Johan is a classifier; he wins without a lot of problems (at least that is what we think…) a podium or a top ranking and this already years and years after each other. Johan isn’t a wizard or a miracle man. Pure solidity in pigeons and care. On the extreme long-distance races, he mostly baskets 2 or 3 pigeons per race and these pigeons’ race 2 or 3 extreme long-distance races per season. Also, in matter of care no hocus pocus but very basic and efficient (later more about this). An anthology out of the top rankings of the past years, next to the title of General Champion Extreme Long Distance this season, he won:

SUPER LEIE FOND TROPHY (Waregem-Kortrijk-Avelgem)
NATIONAL CAHORS 2009 (7347 b.)
NATIONAL ST.-VINCENT 2014 (3240 b.)
INT. NATIONAL ST.-VINCENT 2014 (11388 b.)
NATIONL AGEN 2014 (3240 b.)
NATIONAAL ST.-VINCENT 2006 (7525 b.)
NATIONAL BARCELONA 2012 (11590 b.)
NATIONAL AGEN 2016 (2932 b.)
NATIONAL LIBOURNE 2011 (8269 b.)
NATIONAL LIMOGES 2014 (7221 b.)
11° NATIONAL CAHORS 2006 (6654 b.)
11° INT. NATIONAL AGEN 2014 (11227 b.)
13° NATIONAL SOUILLAC O. 2013 (5282 b.)
14° NATIONAL TARBES 2009 (4812 b.)
19° NATIONAL PERPIGNAN 2010 (6257 b.)
19° NATIONAL MONTAUBAN 2019 (5408 b.)
22° NATIONAL AGEN 2019 (4650 b.)
24° NATIONAL PERPIGNAN 2019 (3915 b.)

For many amongst us is such a list mouth-watering! And these results aren’t won with a mega loft on pigeons. Everything but that, we can call this an ‘average’ loft in numbers. There are 18 couples breeding pigeons, the racing season is being played with 27 old pigeons (the past few years this was mostly 24), 24-year birds and 90 youngsters. To compete on all the long distance and extreme long-distance races with such a team, you must be able to plan well, and you can’t suffer too many losses. What strikes are very few pigeons on a lot of loft. The cocks reside on spacious attic lofts above the former stables. The pigeons older than a year reside on separate lofts and the year birds reside on ‘yearling lofts. Once two years old they move to the lofts of the old pigeons. The youngsters stay in the stable’s downstairs. The racing team can be divided in 2 kinds of pigeons namely those who must do the long-distance races and those who must do the extreme long-distance races. Although Johan dares to put a so-called long-distance pigeon on the harder work…and he admits that the extreme long distance has his preference. The master shows himself in all simplicity How does Johan take care of his pigeons, how does he prepare them for the bigger works? For those who are expecting miracle recipes, don’t fear, there aren’t any. The care is punctual, correct. The lofts are being cleaned on a daily base and everything is tidy. Johan has a fulltime job and then everything needs to be done quick and goal oriented. Johan leaves at 8 o’clock in the morning for his work in Oudenaarde and then the morning work for pigeons is already done. The other tasks start of after 17h in the evening. He can also count on help of the other family members (or open a loft of youngsters in the afternoon). The breeders breed as early as possible and raise 3 rounds of youngsters that are all being held for own use. Round 1 and 2 are being raised together and the 3rd round is being trained separately. They like to race the youngsters, but the cocks have enough on a few provincial races and/or 1 national. The hens are being raced more intensively. The racing team doesn’t breed before the start of the season and are normally being coupled on the 25th of March for a few days (in a non-covid19 season and the hens don’t come onto eggs). During this period, they are being tossed in a small basket. In the season of 2020, the pigeons were being darkened slightly (the lofts don’t allow more darkening) and were being put together every 2 weeks for one day to keep the motivation in order. They weren’t given any extra light later the season. In Spring the pigeons train once a day (for an hour) and when the weather gets better it is twice a day. The pigeons are being fed separately in their box from the moment they have races above Paris. This allows also to feed the up towards a race. The feeding happens according to the saying ‘light but sufficient’. Johan feeds since a few years now the Versele-Laga mixtures. The standard food is Gery Plus Black Label. Next to this one also the 2 heaviest widower mixes out of this gamma are being used in the feeding that starts on Saturday (for a basketing on Wednesday). Many other foods like for example candy, peanuts, etcetera…isn’t being given by Johan. He is of opinion that these mixes foresee in everything that a pigeon needs, and the pigeon will choose for himself what he likes to eat or need to fill up his reserves…and in the basket they also need to eat corn as well, says Johan. At basketing no hens are being showed. After arrival from his work at the day of basketing his pigeons still need to train, get some food and for those who need to go to race can see during half an hour its nest dish. Johan is most of the time the last one to basket in the club in Waregem…. He doesn’t like many side products…He cooks year in year out Colombine tea and uses on a regular base Sedochol. At arrival, the pigeons do get the Energy mixtures and get Belgasol in the drinking pot. At basketing yellow drops are being given on an individual base and the youngsters get these yellow drops in their drinking pot. Johan is a bit against giving side products through the drinking pot. Preferably pure water is his advice, but sometimes one needs to sin against this rule. In a medical way he goes for advice to Pascal Lanneau. The pigeons get the obligated vaccines and after the season a 10-day cure with a paratyphoid medicine in the drinking pot. No vaccinations. From the preparation towards the season on, Johan goes on a monthly check up and almost never a preventive cure is being given. Leave them be and let them get in shape and only interfere when necessary. After the season, the racing pigeons can normally breed twice empty and then they are being separated until March. To conclude, the 10 commandments from Johan are in fact only 3 namely very good pigeons, a correct care and healthy lofts. Season 2020 – international races

18/jul PAU 890 KM NAT. 2919 b. 204° 1/2
INT.NAT. 13128 b. 1218° 1/2
24/jul AGEN 801 KM NAT. 5140 b. 36° & 197° 2/3
INT.NAT. 15271 b. 47° & 308° 2/3
31/jul BARCELONA 1088 KM NAT. 6178 b. 304° 1/2
INT.NAT. 12315 b. 965° 1/2
31/jul ST.-VINCENT 881 KM NAT. 3038 b. 81° & 88° 2/2
INT.NAT. 6073 b. 214° & 239° 2/2
8/aug PERPIGNAN 849 KM NAT. 2643 b. 64° & 71° 2/2
INT.NAT. 11237 b. 301° & 332° 2/2
15/aug NARBONNE 863 KM NAT. 4454 b. 20° & 417° 2/2
INT.NAT. 12848 b. 32° & 1505° 2/2
meaning: 10 prizes on 13 basketed pigeons (= 76,92 % prize)
10 prizes on 13 per ten (= 76,92 % prize per 10)

As the above results are showing it isn’t a big basket that makes the result, but goal oriented with a few experienced and routine pigeons that are working towards a race or races. This is what Johan has got in his fingers as no other. 2020 can be flagged out as a top season. 1°        National champion KBDB EXTREME LONG DISTANCE 1°        Champion National races old pigeons Waregem 1°        Champion National races year birds Waregem 1°        International quintet West-Flanders 1°        Team run Gent FVOV (teammate Marc Verschelde) 5°        Leie long distance trophy 19°      Ace bird KBDB small middle-distance youngsters The gladiators that crowned themselves champion The colony can be brought back for a big part to the old strain of years ago and these were formed with pigeons from Marc Verschelde (ace bird 2020 extreme long distance) and Emiel Denijs. These pigeons were crossed in with the old strain of Johan’s late father. Johan also did well with the earlier bought son of the Ace bird extreme long distance ‘Full Try’ from Jozef Bracke (Carteus). The gene strength of ‘Didll’ who once won the 2nd Ace bird extreme long-distance title is to be found in many pigeons. Recently very promising pigeons are bred out of a cock from Wilfried Vandemaele from Kortrijk. Next to these a few other individual pigeons that complete the breeding loft. And maybe the toughest warrior out of the entire loft is the ‘Barca’, who won 5 years in a row Barcelona and is by doing this the 4th Best pigeon over 5 Barcelona races. We can easily conclude that pigeon sport that is being practised on a really high level as they do over here doesn’t need to be too complicated. Johan succeeded in breeding a very strong colony of pigeons through the years. Pigeons with mordant who, once grown up, can perform very constant on the long and extreme long distance. No big baskets, no mass, but quality. Additionally, they are taken care of and guided on a very motivating and thought true manner. The method of taking care of them is without many tricks but with a lot of attention for a good base health and good food and frequent medical check-ups. Well, nothing complicated on this right? …. Well, try to get these results as Johan and his family did it. A congratulation in winning this beautiful title is at his place!