Ulrich Lemmens (Balen, BE) has earned his place at the top of pigeon racing in Belgium

He is a young and ambitious man with a passion for pigeons and pigeon racing who is prepared to take a calculated risk from time to time. He forced his way to the top thanks to a number of impressive results. He owes a lot to his top class breeding bird Gust and to his well planned strategy and vision. Ulrich has become an important name in our sport and he will continue to be so in the future.

Ulrich is a self-made man. He comes from a family of pigeon fanciers (his grandfather was a successful sprint fancier) and yet Ulrich has been able to bring the pigeon family in Balen to a higher level. He has been strong enough to make it to the top and to stay at the top. Some would say he had everything handed to him on a silver platter but this could not be further from the truth. There is no denying that he receives great support from his family but we assume that every parent and grandparent wants the best for his child or grandchild? His parents could not have dreamed of a more successful career and few fanciers get the opportunity to turn their hobby into a profession. We think many of you will agree that, if you could start all over, you would have also considered making big investments, just like Ulrich did. That is what distinguishes a fancier from a champion. Ulrich is doing an excellent job.

The magnificent racing lofts in Balen

From inquisitive mind to successful fancier

Most of you know that he had taken a risk by making big investments to bring top quality pigeons to his loft in Balen. What few people know is that he suffered a serious setback during a storm on 29 February, when his breeding loft, home to his best pigeons, was lifted into the air by a whirlwind before coming down a few metres further on. He was able to rescue some of his pigeons but the majority of his expensive breeding birds were lost. The positive news is that his renowned top class breeder De Gust managed to come to the fore. Click here for the pedigree of De Gust BE06-6087309. There is a great story behind this pigeon: De Gust had been one of Ulrich’s personal favourites already as a young bird and he was named after his grandfather Gust Lemmens, a great champion in our sport. Ulrich liked everything about this Gust: his behaviour, his character, his physical characteristics etc. Sadly enough, Gust had a broken foot as a yearling so he could not be raced that season. Fortunately enough, Ulrich knew this pigeon had great potential so he decided to give him a second chance. Gust won a first provincial from Bourges in his first season as a racing pigeon. Ulrich selects pigeons very carefully and he decided not to use Gust in the breeding loft yet but to have him complete another season as a racing pigeon instead. The result was a zonal victory from Limoges, which was reason enough for Ulrich to add him to his breeding team after all. It was the start of a highly successful career in pigeon racing for Ulrich. Ulrich understands every aspect of pigeon racing, from the commercial aspect over the competition to providing ideas and giving advice to others. It is great to see someone doing his job with such passion and enthusiasm.

De Gust, an outstanding breeder

It’s not about working hard but about working efficiently

This is one of Ulrich’s basic principles. He says everybody is welcome to visit his loft to try and discover his secret to success. He is a quick learner and he quickly realised that there are no shortcuts in pigeon racing, which means there are no secrets in his loft in Balen either. We will take a closer look at his approach and his methods.

A new racing loft was built in 2012 and all young birds are trained here before they are put to the test as yearlings. The first thing we noticed is that the two best young birds of Belgium in 2012 were trained like any other young bird and were given nothing but water and corn. This shows that you should not make things too complicated. He always follows the same pattern: in the breeding season a Breeding mix is provided, which is a mixture composed by Van Tilburg. This mixture is provided until they have dropped their small breeding feathers, after which they get Pre-flight, a type of purifying mixture of Van Tilburg. The feed is not changed from one day to another but gradually over the course of two weeks, to allow the pigeons’ digestive system to adapt to the new type of feed. This gradual change is better for the pigeons and it significantly reduces the chance of adenoviruses. The pre-flight mixture is provided during the races from Quiévrain and Noyon, as well as some beet juice of Raf Herbots three weeks prior to the start of the national races. Beet juice is scientifically proven to increase the uptake of oxygen in the blood by 16%. Ulrich has also noticed that his pigeons look fitter and they seem to get in shape more easily as well. Before being basketed for the national races, they pigeons get a portion of Overload on Wednesday and Thursday as well, which is a Van Tilburg mixture rich in fats. A quick recovery after the race is of great importance, which is why some Recovery of Jaap Koehoorn is added to the drinking water, as well as some protein supplements. This is provided during one or two days, depending on the difficulty of the race. In some cases, Probac 1000 of Brockamp is also added to the feed, as well as cod liver oil. Sometimes they get Brockamp CMK to maintain fitness.

Towards the middle of the season, when most pigeons tend to lose some fitness or motivation, they get to drink beet juice for two weeks, which should give them some extra oxygen and energy to make it through the season. Every single pigeon is released 30km away from the loft one day after the race, to let them regain their confidence without having to waste too much energy. All pigeons, both the cocks and the hens, are basketed every week. A healthy pigeon should be able to cope, even though the hens have a more demanding season than the cocks: the hens have completed Bourges, Limoges, Cahors, Montauban, Souillac and Tulle last season. The pigeons that cannot successfully complete these races are simply not good enough. They had an excellent 2013 season, which you can tell from the list of achievements of 2013 and the best results of their young birds in 2012: click here for an overview of 2013.

Jozefien does the job

Ulrich won a first national from Tulle and his winning pigeon had a 13 minute lead over the 2nd national (Jos Thoné from As) and 3rd national (Erik Limbourg – Brussegem), which makes for a distance of 80km. This is quite a feat and his winning pigeon is none other than his excellent hen Jozefien, named after his father Jozef. She has what it takes to win top prizes. She is a granddaughter of De Gust and it is no secret that the descendants of De Gust are excellent prize winners, especially in races of 100 to 900km. They are the cornerstones of the Lemmens pigeon breed: they are very smart and strong, which is a combination you do not find very often. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a long list of national winners and international ace pigeons. The bloodline of De Gust is successful in any loft and it has excellent breeding qualities as well: nearly every other bloodline seems to match up really well with De Guust. We take a closer look at Jozefien, Ulrich’s outstanding hen. She proved to be a pigeon with a strong character, because she immediately claimed one of the nest boxes in the widowers’ loft. She had not been paired and she managed to stand strong against all other male pigeons in the loft. Ulrich had noticed this and he added some additional hens to the loft to increase motivation. She was basketed shortly after and we all know the result: she added a national victory to her list of achievements. Jozefien performed really well throughout the season and Ulrich decided to no longer basket her, although he would have loved to, just to see what he is capable of doing. Today, she is in the breeding loft and she is being paired to De Gust, which provides wonderful descendants. If Jozefien carries the genes of her grandfather as well, she is likely to breed outstanding youngsters as well. Ulrich wanted to point out that Jozefien is not for sale; she will stay in the loft in Balen. Click here for the pedigree of Jozefien BE12-6036013.

Jozefien, 1st national Tulle and a granddaughter of De Gust

Ulrich has great confidence in the quality of his own pigeons. In fact, the first pigeon that he sold on PIPA, Brother De Gust BE08-6191551, has now returned to its home loft in Balen. He repurchased his own pigeon from Peter Stakenborg, who had made some great results in the sprint competition with descendants of this Brother De Gust. This pigeon is the sire of the 1st provincial (and 7th national) Ace Pigeon sprint old birds KBDB 2013. Ulrich’s breeding loft houses a collection of great pigeons and he is working to further increase the level of quality.

Brother De Gust, back where he came from

Medical guidance

Raf Herbots is responsible for the health of the pigeons and Ulrich prefers not to use any treatments at all. The pigeons receive vaccinations but he prefers not to use treatments if it is not necessary. The racing pigeons are vaccinated against paratyphus, pox, herpes and paramyxo every season; the breeders are vaccinated against paramyxo only. There is no treatment against tricho, because this has not proved to be necessary. There is a medical check-up by Raf Herbots every two weeks. The main reason is that Ulrich knows he can count on his pigeons as long as Raf does not find any health issues. In addition, a check-up every two weeks allows them to react quickly if something is wrong. Ulrich has not had any health issues in his loft since 2008, which seems to prove his point that regular treatments do provide any benefit in the long run. Of course, he will not hesitate to give a treatment if his pigeons have a serious health problem but this has not been the case yet. The pigeons appear to be in great fitness. If they tend to lose their form, it is usually just a matter of providing supplements to enhance recovery.

Project 2014

There is no time to rest in Balen. The construction of a brand new breeding loft started a few weeks ago and the building is expected to be finished by November 2014. This means the breeders will be housed there from next winter. This new loft was created from scratch and they have really thought about the future when drawing up the plans for the loft: there will be enough room for guests to visit the loft and to discuss the pigeons that are housed in the new building. Feel free to take a closer look at the impressive plans in our photo gallery.

The construction of the new breeding loft has started

The right people, in the right place

Ulrich knows he could not have done this on his own. He likes to consult his colleagues and to get advice from other fanciers. He had the privilege to enjoy the support of his father but he receives great help from others as well, including Raf Herbots, who is responsible for the health of his pigeons. In addition, he consults his colleagues Bart Van Oeckel and Bart Geerinckx every week during the racing season, to discuss training and feeds and to talk about which of the races they are planning to compete in. He likes to exchange information with his colleagues, including, for instance, Ivo Renders. Ulrich helps fanciers with the commercial aspect of the sport in return. Ulrich enjoys listening to his colleagues, because he is really interested in their experiences. He does not hesitate to apply the knowledge he gains from them in his own loft as well. He has been a pigeon fancier for quite some time now. As a 17 year old, he used to learn a lot from fanciers who were 60 or 70 years old and this allowed him to become the successful fancier he is today, at the age of 27. He has a bright future ahead.

Team Lemmens