Is this a breakthrough? It could well be. After all, Ulrich Lemmens is full of ambition and motivation. This explains his clear vision and his well thought out approach in his pigeon loft, which we will discuss in greater detail later in this article. We had already noticed this when we first met Ulrich. Back then he was a fully grown seventeen year old and he had already told us that he wanted to become a professional pigeon fancier. This is of course an age in which many young people dream about turning their hobby into a profession. However, only few of them can make that dream come true. It seems that Ulrich is one of those fanciers whose dream has become true.
Seven years later and Ulrich Lemmens has continued to work his way to the top nationally. He invested in absolutely top class pigeons: Gust is a great stock cock and he is crossed with the very best birds from the top lofts of Frans Rondags, Paul Huls, Marcel Aelbrecht, Gaston Van de Wouwer, Dirk Van Dyck, Pros Roosen, Erik Limbourg and Theo Yskout etc. He also built a top notch pigeon loft and this seems to have helped him on his way to the top of pigeon sport. In the 2012 season Ulrich showed us for the first time what he is capable of: he owns the two best young birds of Belgium in the national classics for young pigeons, both over three and four national races with William and Young Freddy respectively. We introduce them to you briefly:
-Young Freddy BE12-5075899
Best young bird of Belgium in 4 national races 2012 (coeff. 5.2737%) 151st Nat. Zone Argenton 6,630 p. 154th Nat. Gueret 16,988 p. 191st Nat. Bourges 33,524 p. 291st Nat. La Souterraine 19,144 p. 16th Nanteuil 371 p. 21st Momignies 1,490 p. 117th Pithiviers 1,193 p.
Young Freddy was basketed 11 times as a young bird and he won ten prizes.
He is a direct Pierre van Meeuwen from Lommel as a son of Fast Freddy Bis 872/10, which was a winner of five first prizes (and full brother of Fast Freddy, winner of ten first prizes) x Mother Young Freddy 833/10.
Click here for the pedigree of Young Freddy
Best young bird in Belgium on three national races 2012 (coeff. 0.5632%) 8th Nat. Gueret 16,988 p. 18th Nat. Zone Argenton 6,630 p. 82nd Nat. Bourges 33,524 p.
He was bred from Bettini 636/03 x Lara Croft 076/10 (a daughter of the top class couple Lichte Kannibaal 991/00 Van Dyck x Fenomientje 795/02 Paul Huls ; the line from which Super Prins of Gino Clicque and Gilbert of Johan Bleyen originate as well).
Click here for the full pedigree
Young Freddy and William are the result of a new approach that was adopted after the 2011 season, after weeks of brainstorming. That was when he decided to take a different direction in 2012 and to switch to a more professional approach.
A new approach that pays off
The first thing that Ulrich wanted to improve was the way he raises and supervises his pigeons. In the winter months Ulrich sat together with veterinary surgeon Raf Herbots and they decided to lay out a plan to guide the pigeons in the best possible way. The main idea was to keep them in perfect health! This is why: in 2003 Ulrich stopped treating his pigeons for tricho as well. It seems that, thanks to this method his pigeons have become somewhat resistant against trichomoniasis. This became evident after two routine checks, where a few pigeons appeared to be slightly infected. One week later they were completely cured without any treatment. Before the season they made an analysis of a smear test of the pigeons’ throat and they performed some bacteriological studies. They developed a scheme for the pigeon family based on the findings of these studies; you could call it the Herbots-Lemmens system. They will be using this system for next season as well because it proved very successful in 2012. This system includes, for instance, that the pigeons are given some beet juice for 20 days before the start of the season and about two days a week in the months of March, April and May. To further improve the fitness of the pigeons they are given condition powder, condition syrup and amino acids, as well as CMK (Dr Brockamp), a product based on L-carnitine and magnesium.
In recent years most professional athletes have been paying lot of attention to their nutrition and the same applies to pigeon fanciers. Brian Bolton advised Ulrich to pay a visit to Ronny Vantilburg, who composed a number of exclusive feed mixtures for him, for which only the very best seeds are used. They wanted to have the highest possible nutritional value for the pigeons. For instance, it is possible that a certain mixture contains French cribs maize one day and paardentand corn the other. They composed the following racing mixtures: Pre-flight (a light mixture and a purifier), breeding mix (a balanced breeding mixture), overload (a mixture full of energy), moulting mix (for the moult) and a miscellaneous mixture (composed of some types of grit).
The success formula for 2012
When the youngsters are on their own they are housed in two sections in a loft with pea straw and wood shavings. As soon as they can fly to their nest boxes they are divided over four sections and the straw is removed from the loft. The wood shavings are mixed and a new layer is added. The aviary is opened from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening, no matter what the weather conditions are. The young birds get a daily portion of breeding mixture until after the cover feathers have moulted. After that they are given pre-flight mixture; every day the portion of pre-flight is increased by 5% so that their feed consists entirely of pre-flight mixture after two weeks.
The young birds are not let out until the first of March, to protect them from birds of prey. Beffore this they spend most of their time in the aviary so they can still explore the environment. The eggs of the best breeding pigeons are often brooded by feeding pairs and it happens a lot that there is a big age difference between the young birds. That is also why they are kept in the aviary until 1 March. Before they are released for the first time the young birds are given a daily portion of beet juice (from Raf Herbots) for twenty days. On the first day they can walk on the landing board and they are trained not to land on the roof. The first training begins as soon as they know the way. After one week of training the young birds will do autonomous flights of 30 minutes or even an hour.
Before the training begins the young birds are given Prange Suppe for two weeks. When the training starts they will be basketed every day, even in bad weather conditions. They are released no further than 40km away from the loft. A demanding schedule is maintained but it allows the pigeons to gain confidence. Experience has shown that self confidence is a key requirement if you want your pigeons to be successful. Their first flight in the club is from Momignies (145km) and from then on they have to do a training flight of 40 km both on the day after the race and on Wednesdays. Then, they can fly around in the morning and when they come back they are fed and they are basketed. The baskets are then loaded into a trailer and carried away.
The young birds are separated by the time of the first middle distance flight. Even though there are not that many couples yet, there is still a clear effect on the young birds team. During the week Ulrich allows both sexes to sit together regularly though. He does the same with his old birds and his one year old racing hens (sometimes up to three times a week). He wants to avoid the hens pairing together and to increase their desire for the breeding box or their cock!
The scheme that was drawn up together with his vet Raf Herbots was adopted as soon as the young birds raced their first middle distance flight. From then on, something was added to the feed or the drinking tray almost on a daily basis, to enhance health and fitness. For instance, when the pigeons arrive home some Recovery is added to the drinking water and some APF (proteins) and some Avisal are added to the feed. After a national flight the pigeons are purified with a light pre flight mixture and a mixture of sedochol, beet juice and probiotics including Probac 1000 (Brockamp) and TS6 (Backs), as well as condition powder. They try to stimulate the pigeons to eat as much as possible by giving them about five smaller portions a day. The pigeons are given eye drops (they vary between different products) before they are basketed and when they arrive home some eye ointment is used. To apply the ointment he has to take the pigeons in the hand and this is the perfect opportunity for a brief examination. How does the pigeon feel, does it have anything left or is it completely exhausted? You have probably noticed that Ulrich and his father work very hard in their loft.
They did the same routine the week before Argenton. After a very successful race from Bourges (26/30) the pigeons were basketed for an in between flight from Pithiviers. When they were basketed, Ulrich noticed that some pigeons suffered from the feared one eye cold. When the birds arrived home he rushed to the vet Raf Herbots, who confirmed Ulrich’s diagnosis. On Sunday morning and on Tuesday evening all pigeons were treated with a mixture from the vet and they were given some eye ointment three times a day (with different products). When the day of basketing approached great weather was predicted. However, there was an unfavourable eastern wind at national level for the region around Balen, which might still prove beneficial in the zone however. Ulrich was fed up and despite the treatment he assumed he would not be able to have a successful race. In fact he considered just skipping the national from Argenton. Still, he could not let this race pass and he decided to basket them after all. He was not very confident: his pigeons were training very hard but he was afraid that the one eye cold had affected his pigeons’ fitness. He was wrong: on Saturday, the young birds of Ulrich had a magnificent result from Argenton! The nationals from La Souterraine and Gueret had a similar outcome. William and Young Freddy were the two captains of this talented and successful team of young birds from Balen!
The new loft that was built forms an L shape and is constructed of termowood and it is more than 30 meters long. It is remarkable that the lofts are sealed off. There are only some slides in the corridor that can be slid open for about 30cm, but this hardly ever happens. This is because aviaries have been built in front of the lofts that also accommodate the landing board. This means the pigeons live in the aviaries during the day (the young birds can choose; the racing hens have to live in the aviary) where there is plenty of fresh air and oxygen. The lofts are equipped with ATX heating to keep temperature fluctuations between day and night to a minimum during a cold and/or moist period.
New developments for 2013
A fancier is always looking for ways to improve his pigeon family, so Ulrich has some new challenges for 2013. One is to create a team of one year old racing birds (about 30 pairs) that will be raced on total widowhood. He follows the example of many top class lofts in Belgium that are successful with this approach. He will continue to race his old birds (especially hens) on classic widowhood.
You can see that Ulrich Lemmens is not only a thinker; he is also a doer. He likes challenges, he carefully evaluates everything he does and he changes direction if necessary. He consults other people when he has to make decisions and he always tries to realise his vision. This way of working allowed him to make a breakthrough in 2012 and he is eager to play a role in the national middle distance and the shorter long distance competition in 2013. He has everything it takes and his pigeons seem ready for it. It is now up to him to make it happen and to achieve great results!
The highlights of the four national races for young birds in 2012
Bourges Nat 33,524 youngbirds: 82-90-191-261-535-652-778-790-856-942-1063-1074-1119-1240-1560… (26/30) Argenton Nat Zone C 6,630 youngbirds: 18-151-152-160-181-191-206-263-345-393-439-443-447-473-477-556-570-579-697… (21/28) National 25,949 youngbirds: 240-1339-1343-1421-1540-1607-1703-2028-2527… (19/28) La Souterraine Nat 19,155 youngbirds: 288-291-424-433-443-629-691-785-867-1969-2142… (17/24) Gueret Nat 16,988 youngbirds: 8-154-196-459-606-734-740-942-973-1049-1101-1303-1324-1854… (18/29)