Team Meirlaen: Aline (left), his wife Yvette, Etienne (right)
The pigeon loft in Deurle-Sint-Martens-Latem suddenly looked a whole lot different in late 2012 and early 2013, after Etienne sold his entire team of old birds (older than 2010) in a PIPA auction. This means his pigeon collection had significantly weakened, with his entire breeding team (except for Yelena) and all his best racing pigeons (except for Montali) moving to different lofts. He sold the pigeons that had made him into a successful fancier by winning national and international top prizes. His pigeons were some of the best in Belgium and they have won several KBDB ace pigeon titles!
Etienne deserves respect for this deliberate choice of auctioning his pigeons. He wanted to take a step down to take some pressure off, while also giving himself a new challenge, the challenge to create a new top class team from out of the blue. He was looking to build a new team of long distance and extreme long distance pigeons based on new, young stock pigeons.
His previous collection of talented and experienced birds was suddenly gone but he had kept a small collection of pigeons in his loft. However, this does not guarantee a new generation of equally successful pigeons. On the other hand, Etienne Meirlaen is experienced enough to know when and where he has to adapt and improve his breed and which pigeons he should get rid of. He has great expertise, knowledge and a feel for pigeons!
A new team of long distance racing birds
The breeding lofts in Deurne were all but empty after the PIPA auction in late 2012, with Etienne having only two old birds left from the auction: his stock dam Yelena and her son Montali, which are of course excellent pigeons. The first task was to come up with a new breeding family and every experienced long distance fancier knows that this is quite a difficult job. The breeding loft is, of course, the foundation of every pigeon family, as it provides new champions and prize winners!
Etienne Meirlaen had, of course, bred a round of descendants from his best pigeons before auctioning his entire collection, as he did not want to be left empty handed. Owning one of the very best breeding lofts for the longer distance in Western Europe, it was not an option for him to look for better breeds. He can rely on the strength of his own breed and it was his first objective to try and find bloodlines that could be a good match for his own breed.
Many of the direct descendants of his old Meirlaen champions proved to be highly talented young pigeons that could allow him to regain his place among the most successful pigeon fanciers. His new generation of pigeons were bred from national ace pigeons and national champions including Cor, Perpignanlady, Monar, Montauban, Fenomeen, Marseille, Broer Marseille 612, Starlight and others. It seems to be a matter of finding the right combinations or pairings and we assume some of his racing pigeons of today (born in 2010 and later) will prove to be great breeders later on as well. Keep in mind that he has excellent references in many other lofts as well. Many fanciers paid a visit to the lofts in Deurle to purchase some of his high quality pigeons and they were soon very successful with descendants of the best Meirlaen breeders.
A fresh start with a fresh new team
After selling his collection in late 2012, he had nothing left in his racing team except for the two year old racing pigeons and younger. They provided a basis for the future: Etienne started the 2013 racing season with this group of young and fairly inexperienced long distance pigeons. His old champions Monar, Montali, Montauban, Fenomeen, Broer Fenomeen, Kleine Fenomeen, Monty etc. were no longer there so he had to try and discover future champions in his new team. These new champions will have to lead the way in the future, which is not easy.
It is often said that it does not take long for a good quality pigeon to come to the surface. Etienne Meirlaen has plenty of experience and he knows his pigeon breed inside out. This allows him to quickly identify the best pigeons in his racing loft. It is then a matter of basketing these pigeons as your first nominated and the result was a 13th National Champion Long Distance Old Birds KBDB 2013. This title came as a surprise. Etienne assumed it would take him approximately three seasons to regain his place at the top of the national long distance competition and to come up with a solid team of long distance birds that could compete with the best lofts in Belgium. Apparently, it took him a lot less time to make a comeback. Let’s have a look at the prizes that resulted in the title of 13th National Champion Long Distance Old Birds 2013:
Dat. Race Level #pigeons 1st & 2nd nom. 01/6 Limoges Nat 14,271 p. 871 2268 08/6 Montélimar Nat 5,952 p. 373 372 29/6 Orange Prov 395 p. 69 4 13/7 Brive Nat 8,331 p. 330 63
This illustrates the quality of his new racing team.
If these pigeons can maintain their level of performance at the age of four and older, Etienne will have a great future ahead in the long distance races to come. It comes down to growing stronger and gaining experience. 2013, his first season since his total auction, has brought no less than 17 national and international top 100 prizes, which shows that his pigeon breed is on the right track. The Meirlaen pigeons continue to play a key role at international level!
National and international top 100 prizes won in 2013
5th Internat Agen/Bordeaux 3,113 hens 8th Nat Agen/Bordeaux 5,283 yearlings 19th Internat Agen/Bordeaux 10,579 yearlings 25th Internat Agen/Bordeaux 3,113 hens 27th Internat Perpignan 3,049 hens 31st Internat Marseille 1,913 hens 44th Nat Agen/Bordeaux 5,283 yearlings 44th Nat Orange 3,874 old birds 46th Internat Agen/Bordeaux 3,113 hens 63rd Nat Brive 8,331 old birds 66th Internat Marseille 1,913 hens 76th Nat Perpignan 5,613 old birds 81st Nat Libourne 6,134 yearlings 81st Nat Agen/Bordeaux 5,283 yearlings 82nd Nat Souillac 3,641 yearlings 92nd Internat Agen/Bordeaux 3,113 hens 96th Nat Marseille 2,376 old birds
It seems to be just a matter of time before the Meirlaen pigeon family will be able to perform at a top level in the national and international races again, possibly winning (inter)national victories and ace pigeon titles. We know from previous seasons that these pigeons are almost unstoppable as soon as they are in good shape. You can take a closer look at their list of achievements below.
Etienne Meirlaen is regarded an international champion in the long and grand distance and he is not willing to settle for less in the future. He is starting to get ready for a splendid 2014 season with plenty of great moments!