F.l.t.r. Jens , Stefan & Jonas, Geraardsbergen
Geraardsbergen, a region that apparently possesses fertile soil, has two winners this year: Stefan Mertens became 1st National champion Middle Distance young pigeons and Adrien De Munter and Sons were 3rd National Yearlings and 9th National Middle Distance.
Stefan Mertens is working at Versele Laga’s since 1993 as Junior Product Manager.
This implies that Stefan is responsible for all pigeon related stuff at Versele Laga’s. He works in a team with a.o. Wim Boddaert, 2nd National Extreme Long Distance, and Mathieu De Clippel. The team is responsible for advertisements, sponsoring and fairs …
Stefan, who is a sympathetic East-Flemish man, regularly goes on business trips to Germany, Holland and England so there’s not much time left to spend at pigeon racing. But he’s always able to find a way around that.
Furthermore, Stefan is a reporter for ‘De Duif’, ‘Siegelpigeons’ & ‘Brieftaubensport Internationaal’.
In 1977, Stefan moved to Onkerzele with his parents and discovered a passion for pigeon racing.
At the age of 7, he catched a pigeon and took care of it. He was sold immediately. When he was 16 years old, he started racing pigeons.
He ended up at Gustaaf Michiels’s (Onkerzele) who was a real Quievrain champion at the time. When the pigeons returned on Sunday, Stefan helped him recording them.
Later-on, he paid a visit to Paul Schepens (Onkerzele) who possessed pigeons from the breed of Jozef Wellemans (Grimminge). These pigeons were capable of flying longer distances
In summertime, Stefan went to work in Brussels and bought his first pigeon loft with the money he had earned.
The rule at the house of Mertens was that Stefan wasn’t allowed to participate in pigeon racing during the year which forced him to focus on racing youngsters.
At the end of the eighties he ended up at Eric and Alfons Brootcoorens’s (Idegem) as well.
There are 20 breeding couples and just as much couples that are used to sit on the eggs of the breeding couples, thus allowing to raise 2 rounds within approximately 8 days: a total of 70 youngsters. Coupling takes place around Christmas because Stefan spends a lot of time abroad in January.
The breeders get 2 years to prove what they are worth: if they haven’t provided anything good by then, Stefan gets rid of them.
He has achieved excellent breeding results with the following breeds: Aelbrecht Marcel (Lebbeke), Vandepoele Eddy and Valeer (Werken), Meulemans Jean (Teralfene), Van Den Driessche Alain and Dirk (St Lievens Esse), Van Damme-Boddaert (Oostkamp), Meirhaeghe Walter (Lembeke), Brootcoorens Eric (Idegem), Jean Van De Broeck (Relegem), De Vadder-Valckenborgh (Haaltert), Schoors-de Waele (Adegem) .
Breeding and preparation.
This is a topic that our man from Geraardsbergen would like to discuss and to which he attaches much importance.
He thinks it is one of the most important elements of pigeon sport.
Especially preparing the breeding is important: Stefan hears many fanciers complain about bad breeding every year.
To avoid this, Stefan handles some golden rules. First of all: you have to make sure that the cocks occupy their boxes and that they are in excellent health.
It’s no good when the hens are too fat.
The breeding couples receive good nutrition during the breeding period which enhances the chance of insemination.
Before the breeding period starts, the pigeons are checked for paratyphus. If an infection with paratyphus is suspected, the pigeons receive a treatment of 10 days with theraprim.
The pigeons are lit and Ferti oil and B-pure (both Colombine) are regularly added to the feed.
There are 2 lofts with approximately 70 youngsters.
The youngsters are sitting on the bare floor during the first month. Once they are able to get into their boxes, a thick layer of pea straw is used to cover the floor.
First, they receive the breeding mixture Start Plus I.C and later-on Stefan switches to Junior Plus I.C. .
Previously, the birds were fed a home-made mixture which consisted of Paddy rice, Gerry Plus IC, the German mixture GS Special, ‘Rui optimal’ and small French maize cribs.
However, when Junior Plus was replaced by Junior Plus I.C at Versele Laga’s, they also changed its composition in accordance with the previously mentioned composition of our national champion.
According to Stefan, Junior Plus I.C is the most ideal mixture to allow youngsters to train well.
The pigeons are not fed in a regular wooden box but in a plastic dish. This is because, after approximately 2 weeks, a kind of mould forms on the wood of the box if it regularly contains food treated with oil and brewer’s yeast.
Drinking water is being provided in a water bowl: during the season, the birds can drink directly in the basket and this method also makes sure that strange pigeons who enter the loft don’t start drinking right away.
A sample of the droppings is taken in the first week after weaning and all the pigeons are treated against tricho.
The birds are aired in the morning, they fly for about one hour after which they receive 40 grams of Junior Plus I.C per pigeon.
If they stay out they don’t get the chance to eat, Stefan is never at home when the birds fly.
After they are weaned, the pigeons get “soup” every day. This soup consists of ingredients such as onion, garlic, pine tea, powdered alum, sugar candy, iodium tincture, thyme, carrots and celeriac.
Stefan advises not to put any “V-spots” on the youngsters’ loft: it’s easier to tame a young pigeon in a box.
He always has Theraprim at his disposal in case the Adeno Coli virus rears its head. If pigeons start vomiting, they are treated.
This year, the birds were darkened from half March until the end of May: a shorter period compared to other years because the national championship had already be marked as a target and Stefan had to bear this in mind.
The birds are darkened automatically by means of a timer: the roll-down shutters are closed at 4:30 PM and they are opened at 11:00 PM.
But it shouldn’t get too dark, closing and opening the shutters has to happen punctually and the pigeons shouldn’t have the feeling that everything is shut.
The pigeons regularly receive a bath. During the past summer, the bath was put at their disposal every day because of the heat. The pigeons constantly freshened up and the humidity level in the loft was ideal.
Training happens very fast at the same time of the Tour of Flanders.
Stefan has also suffered big losses this year: at the start of the past season, there were only about 25 young pigeons left.
The season was closed off with 11 cocks and 4 hens.
The cocks were raced in 3 clubs and provided Stefan with the national title.
The pigeons were raced according to the method of pure widowhood. A couple of old hens were added.
On the day of basketing, Stefan opens the doors and provides them with a filled feed box.
Sometimes, he installs some cardboard boxes to boost their motivation.
A couple of hours after the pigeons have returned, they are all plunged in a tepid / warm bath. Then, they get a spoonful of Colombine mucus powder in their bill and some terramycine ointment in there eyes.
On Monday and Tuesday, they receive Gerry plus IC and super diet.
In the middle of the week, Stefan gives them Form-Mix + Form-oil and B-pure: the pigeons eat less because of the oil in the feed which is convenient considering that they need to eat lager quantities by the end of the week.
Vet Wim Boddaert (Oostkamp) is contacted every three weeks. This appointment was cancelled for a while during the past season because of the large distance (Geraardsbergen-Oostkamp): the pigeons were worn out because of the high temperatures.
They switched to a 2-weeks-system: the pigeons receive tricho during the first week (1/6 flagyl or tricho cure).
The birds receive something against ornithosis during the 2nd week, they alternately receive Ornicure, Amoxicure, Lincospectin or Tylan. Furthermore, Stefan also used other by-products such as B-pure , Biochol , Form-oil…
Only results count to Stefan, he doesn’t consider eye theories… He tries to couple good with good and he attempts to breed from young pigeons or yearlings for as much as possible. Breeders get 2 years to prove what they are worth.
Results and Championships.
1st National Champion Middle Distance youngsters 2006.
6th and 11th Provincial Ace Pigeon Middle Distance youngsters 2006.
5 results with 1st and 2nd nominated young pigeon.
Races further than Paris and 450km at the most. One race per weekend.
Number of pigeons
Stefan would like to dedicate the victory of 1st National Champion Middle Distance young pigeons to his deceased colleagues Valentin Mandica & Zolt Kajtar who were killed in the Katowice disaster.