Stefan Mertens (Geraardsbergen) wins Argenton Provincial and National Zone !

28 years, day in, day out a career in pigeon racing…who can show such a lot of experience and knowledge?
Yes, the very sympathetic Stefan Mertens from Onkerzele – Geraardsbergen can. Living on the back side of the famous “Muur of Geraardsbergen” (know by cyclist), on the edge of a quiet area, Stefan is someone who in all modesty is very active in the pigeon sport and this as well professionally as hobbyist-player.

When modesty and commitment are really your talents
Simplicity, modesty, and very reliable are labels we like to put on “the man” Stefan. When he achieves a strong result and we send him our congratulations, in many cases the answer is “as a small fancier…”. In numbers this may be the case, but in performance this is by no means the case.
The simpler and more modest he acts, the more he grows in confidence, approach, drive, motivation, etc. …. He is also a bit obsessed with the pigeons and has a lot of experience in the pigeon world. For 17 years he was product-manager at Versele-Laga, developed feeding-schemes, gave advice to fanciers, represented his employer at all pigeon-fairs in the world and in this way, he got to know the world through and through.
Afterwards he made a nice transfer to the Herbots family to start up and manage Pigeon Bids (online auctions) as a permanent employee. Stefan has been there for 11 years now and they can’t emphasize enough what a reliable pillar he is in all activities of the Herbots family.
Beside this function, which fills more than a day’s work, Stefan visits all national winners during the racing season (except when he has a holiday himself) to take pictures, make film reports, make contacts etc….. On some days, weekends, this can be up to 4 visits a day all over Belgium. This also shows his dedication.
Outside the racing season, he is very active with making contacts, negotiating, preparing the online auctions that are leading worldwide.

Fond of the game
For those who might have forgotten…in 2006 Stefan became National Champion KBDB small middle distance young birds. At that time still in his former residence, he defeated all youngster specialists of Belgium for this very beautiful title. It is on the speed and middle distance that you learn the trade…. is a wisdom that is still regularly confirmed.
Also with Stefan this is the case. In a later stage, the focus shifted from the speed to the middle- and very long distance. These races are Stefan’s preferred playing field…. and also allow him to visit the national winners afterwards (later on the day after his pigeons came home).
Stefan is a very motivated but even more realistic player. He can read a result like no other and is also quite rigorous in his selection. As a resident in the pigeon world, he knows well enough that quality of the pigeons, commitment and a very good follow-up are keys to success.

Esther (BE22-4110014) wins 1st provincial and 1st national zone Argenton
…. Let’s not forget that Esther is the name of the youngest daughter of Stefan and Ilse. If the winner would have been a winner (read cock) then it would have been a choice between Jens or Jonas (the 2 sons of Stefan).
Argenton national last weekend would be a pretty tough cracker for youngsters. The weather conditions were like they have been in the past months namely quite warm and wind at the head or on the wing, so we had to work hard. For young pigeons, races like Chateauroux, Argenton, La Souterraine are already quite tough and only the really good ones can fly at the top.
Stefan got the shivers when last Saturday on the dot of 3pm, Esther took to the loft like a rocket. Released at 8 o’clock in the morning in Argenton, she was home in Onkerzele after 7 hours of hard work. She left the 495 km with a speed of 1,180.32 m to fight her way to a 6th national, very motivated.
– 1st club 1,441b
– 1st provincial 3,857b
– 1st national zone 1,998 b
– 6th national 13,393 b
– 6th fastest out of 15,669 b
It was still a bit nervous to see how the further distances would score but it soon became clear that Esther would not let herself be pushed aside in the ranking ..with a 1st club, 1st provincial, 1st national zone and 6th national as a beautiful result.
Esther is bred out of 2 pigeons which came straight from Jan Pappens from Zwalm, and is a half-sister, same father, of a/o 9th prov. Orleans against 19,203b. and a half-sister, same mother of a/o: 4th Melun 1,067b. – 5th Chevrainvilliers 812b. etc..
Her pedigree shows the best basic pigeons of the loft of Jan.


(Pedigree Esther)


The good ones come from the good ones
Is here again for 100 % the case. A few years ago, Stefan got pigeons from Jan and Marleen Pappens in Zwalm. For many years already Jan has been a terror in the Flemish Ardennes in middle- and very long distance with national tops and ace birds on their rich palmares. The references of players who succeeded with the pigeons of Jan are also very impressive. We like to pick out one of them, Tom & Marnix Van Gaver from Moortsele who also started at the source in Zwalm and succeeded formidably with these pigeons.
Soon after their purchase, Stefan told us that the first results were very good and hopeful. The last 2 seasons this has been confirmed with very strong results in middle-distance and very heavy middle-distance. 1st prizes are easily won, and a large percentage of the pigeons easily place themselves in the front of the results. A very successful acquisition of the pigeons of Jan. Stefan is grateful to Jan and Marleen for these good pigeons and for the reliable advice.
Also neighbor Eric Brootcoorens likes to thank Stefan. On the one hand for the pigeons of Eric and on the other hand for the always willing helping hand of Eric for bringing in the clocks etc. …. “Better a good neighbor than a far friend” …….!
The 20 to 25 breeding couples that should provide the necessary ammunition consist of pigeons from
– Jan Pappens (35 original)
– 1 cock from neighbor Eric Brootcorens (with which Stefan succeeded very well)
– 1 hen from Eddy & Maarten Leutenez (daughter national Argenton-winner Oscar)
– 2 original pigeons from Willem De Bruyn
– 1 hen from John Meurysse
– 1 cock from co-breeding with Geert Dhaenens
From this breeding strain about 80 young pigeons are bred each year (in 2 rounds).
Next to the youngsters another 12 couples are played on total widowhood (as yearling or old pigeon). After a few middle-distance races only, the hens were played in the season 2022. This is mostly out of necessity because Stefan also has to process the visits of the national winners in his planning.
The play of the yearlings and old birds was also this season of high level. Started on 17th April with 3 pigeons in the Top-10 and during 5 consecutive weeks Top-10 locally each time.
A topper was the provincial Orléans where they started with the 17th provincial against 21,087 old and yearlings. A relatively small basket but bursting with quality!

How to achieve success with the youngsters?
The 80 youngsters (we breed as early as possible – spread over 2 rounds) get 1/4 Flagyl shortly after weaning when they drink and eat well and afterwards the necessary vaccinations on the advice of Raf Herbots.
The first weeks after weaning, they get a firm breeding mixture and lots of apple vinegar and Naturaline in the drinking water. When they are moulting little feathers, add beer yeast and oil regularly to the feed to make sure the feathers change well.
Afterwards, the youngsters get a youngster’s mixture of Beyers.
Once in April, and when they have a good training rhythm, they will be basketed for the first time and if the weather is good, they will be trained further.
Before the first flight from Noyon, the youngsters were treated against tricho for 5 days and they always get a yellow drop in the beak every week.
After 2 races from Noyon, they went to Sermaises for the first time on 02/07 and immediately scored the 1st prize. One week later again Sermaises (beautiful result), then Orleans (2 Top-10 local) and then provincial Orleans (released at 11h) which went very bad.
This badly handled race from Orleans was a low point in the season. Only 6 prizes of 29 youngsters were won and many pigeons were released during the week and even the week after.
The choice was made for a calm and thorough recovery without forcing. A week’s rest and a treatment against tricho and possible “headaches” brought back the schwung. This was the first real cure they got in their still young life.
The next week, a good result on Toury. Then again, a week of rest (very hot weather was predicted and only small middle-distance races were allowed).
Then again, a middle-distance race from Toury with as result locally against 291 youngsters: 4-5-6-7-9-20-21-22-23-27 (12 out of 24 per ten). It was clear that the rest, combined with the cure of the past, had boosted the condition.
Argenton was basketed with some strong confidence that a good result could be achieved. Beside the main bird that Esther shot, there were locally 10 prizes from 21 pigeons (per 3 teams).
After the 2nd race of the youngsters on Noyon, the cocks were separated from the hens, and they continued playing on the sliding door. The youngsters were darkened until the 1st week of June and from the week before Bourges they had extra light.

Remarkable is the fact that the pigeons are only fed once a day.
Stefan, who we may call a real food connoisseur, uses the following feeding schedule:
– On their return: Petit France Versele-Laga + Energy Plus + Herbo Omega Oil and K+K Protein 3000 (Röhnfried) and Tarsin (Raf Herbots) – drink freshly made tea (Herbots) and honey from the beekeeper.
– afterwards: 50% Petit France + 25% Soontjens + 25% Gerry Plus
– Last 2 days before basketing Petit France Versele-Laga + Energy Plus

– Last days before basketing Herbo Omega oil (Herbovet) + Boost X5 (Oropharma) on the feed.
The week before basketing from Argenton, Herbo Beets (red beet juice) was mixed in the drinking water for 5 days. It was the first time that the youngsters were given this product and it did not seem to harm them, on the contrary!
As you can read, nothing is left to chance to get the pigeons to the start in an optimal way…but this is not a guarantee for success.
Stefan is a man with a lot of courage and this as well in his profession as in his hobby, but also as a person. Sooner or later such an attitude leads to results and success…which is clearly the case here.
I am convinced that many people in the pigeon world grant Stefan this success!
Congratulations from your Herbots team!

Geert Dhaenens