Coeckelberghs Omer, "1st national champion KBDB yearlings (2006)"

Omer, posing under the entrance of the young pigeons, happy with his national title.

Little pigeons in a spacious loft … guarantee of success ?

Binkom.- An unsightly small village on the map, a formerly independent municipality in the centre of the region of “Hageland” between Leuven and Tienen. Most of the Flemish will remain silent when asked about the location of Binkom. This small village with barely 1.000 inhabitants has however become wellknown in the pigeon scene. In the past, Binkom has had national victories of Maurice Hendrickx in the Bourges race and of the Vangilbergen Bros. in the Limoges race. Last year, there was the national Bourges victory of Coeckelberghs Andre. This year, his brother Omer has achieved the first national title. Omer is not the only one to obtain a national title in this region: Patrick Lismont from Bekkevoort became national speed champion and Davy Tournelle from Rummen obtained the title of national youth champion... The “Hageland” and “Haspengouw” regions have done well in the field of pigeon sport in 2006... Ostend here we come...!!!

We went to the Meenselstraat in Binkom in the last weekend of the hottest month of October ever to put Omer Coeckelberghs on the rack and fish out all the secrets that lead to his success. He was waiting for us a little uncomfortably: Omer prefers to keep working at his pigeon success in the background to try to at least confirm the wonderful results of 2006 next season. If it hadn’t been for his wife who sent in the results, somebody else would have triumphed. Championships are a necessary evil to Omer. In all fairness we have to add that upon drawing up this report, we found that the two results which were sent in had a worse coefficient than the other ones they could have submitted. They mentioned the result of Obrafo (East-Brabant long distance club) instead of the result of Fleurus: a race in which Omer scored even better. The overall coefficient of this national champion yearlings could actually have been better...
Our sympathetic hostess put a cup of coffee and a delicious waffle in front of us and we started listening to a long story ...

2205243/04 – This beautiful scaled white-headed cock is the best old pigeon of the loft and descends from a pigeon of Maurice Michiels, Veltem X Freddy Vandenheede, Zingem. He was already one of the best racers of the loft as a youngster and as a yearling and his talent was confirmed in 2006 when he achieved the following results… Momignies 4th/226, 2nd/215, 28th/144 ; Soissons 20th/250, 47th/183 ; Toury 15th/133 loc, 30th/772 zone west, 52nd/1032 obrafo ; 2nd/148 loc, 7th/700 west, 8th/986 obrafo ; 9th/91 loc, 20th/588 west, 34th/831 obrafo ; 5th/97 loc, 6th/539 west, 11th/874 obrafo ; 1st/66 loc, 12th/567 west, 13th/782 obrafo ; 18th/85 loc, 51st/411 west, 92nd/581 obrafo ; 2nd/52 loc, 2nd/450 west, 3rd/648 obrafo ; 52nd/289 west, 89th/383 obrafo.

40 years of pigeon sport
Omer, who got into early retirement only recently, was brought up on a passion for pigeons. He was already engaged in the world of our winged friends as a teenager. Omer tried to learn how to stand on his own two feet by trial and error together with his brother Andre, uncle Jules, ... He understood pretty fast and started racing in Attenrode, together with his dad (Frans). Frans was a feared man in speed racing in the fifties and sixties. Omer kept assisting his father very faithfully until he passed away in 2001. He continued to play on his own in his father’s lofts in Attenrode but soon enough, this method appeared not be what Omer had expected it to be. The inheritance of his father who excelled in preparing his widowers for the races, was heavy indeed. If you want to achieve good results, you have to spend a lot of time with your pigeons and you’re away from home quite a lot. The knot was cut and Omer built his own loft in Binkom three years ago. He already had good pigeons in his possession, now he had to finalize the loft and good results were to follow automatically... During last winter, he moved the loft slightly in the direction of the east. He says this was the last change he made to the loft. As from that point onwards, no more changes were made. During the start of the season, he introduced some minor adjustments and the national title yearlings 2006 was a fact ... As far as the loft is concerned, everything is in perfect order...

"de kleine gesteke 274' - 2115274/05’ – The super pigeon of the loft in 2006 became 7th national ace pigeon middle distance. He flew a mere five speed races as a youngster but he proved what he was worth this season right from the first middle distance races … Judge for yourself … Momignies 28th/308 ; Soissons 55th/271 ; Toury 8th/105 loc, 22nd/718 west, 68th/1064 obrafo, 111th/1480 Fleurus ; 2nd/264 loc, 11th/1099 west, 15th/1551 obrafo, 34th/2102 Fleurus ; 1st/127 loc, 1st/675 west, 1st/959 obrafo, 1st/1542 Fleurus ; 2nd/117 loc, 2nd/762 west, 2nd/1194 obrafo, 2nd/1846 Fleurus ; 1st/68 loc, 7th/715 west, 7th/967 obrafo, 21st/1429 Fleurus ; 1st/100 loc, 1st/554 west, 2nd/751 obrafo, 2nd/1137 Fleurus ; 3rd/60 loc, 5th/554 west, 14th/839 Obrafo, 23rd/1178 Fleurus ; 2nd/30 loc, 4th/335 west, 23rd/472 Obrafo, 23rd/689 Fleurus.

Breeding foundation

According to Omer, the second most important factor to achieve good results apart from a good loft is a selection of good pigeons. During the past few years, he has been working very patiently to build up a good strain. Frans and Omer were part of the better speed racers in the area during the seventies and eighties. They obtained their first pigeons at Vandeven’s in Schaffen and some pigeons came from Miel Vandijck from Ramsel through a coupon. These pigeons were in fact middle distance racers but by combining these birds with the available stock of Momignies pigeons, Frans and Omer managed to breed stronger Soissons racers. When Obrafo was founded at the end of the eighties / start of the nineties, Frans and Omer decided to switch to middle distance racing. They looked for quality breeding pigeons for these distances and paid a visit to the late Victor Lemmens in Orpmaal in the early nineties. This super racer had mainly pigeons of Jef Houben and Raoul and Xavier Verstraete in his lofts. Several birds moved to Attenrode with success. They bought a late youngster (4110663/91) at a sale of the loft of Raoul and Xavier Verstraete in Nieuwerkerken in 1991. This youngster descended from the Picasso breed on father’s side and the strains of Bol, Elvis and Kadet on the maternal side. It was a bull’s eye right away: this cock produced several superb speed and middle distance racers coupled to the Lemmens pigeons. The next beautiful move for pigeon success was made in 1993. Omer had been following the results obtained by Rene Vandenheede for many years. When he finally had the courage to give the man a ring, Rene had just passed away. Omer ended up at his son’s –Freddy Vandenheede– in Zingem and bought a couple of youngsters at this champions’ loft; young pigeons that had already been raced. Omer passed by once more in 1994 and returned home with 12 Vandenheede top pigeons which he added to his breeding loft. In the meantime, Omer got acquainted with a colleague he met in the UZ hospital in Leuven: Benny Willems from Bekkevoort. This man is one of the better (long) middle distance racers in the region and Omer bought a daughter of Benny’s super Bourges hen in 1997. This hen was coupled with the scaled (light-coloured) cock of Freddy Vandenheede and produced ‘de 016/98’. This cock obtained several first prizes in middle distance races. Omer bought a son of ‘de wreedoger’ of Benny in 2000 and he made a couple more acquisitions in Bekkevoort. 50% of the pigeon stock in Binkom consists of Benny Willems pigeons. At the end of 2003, Omer paid a visit to Maurice Michiels in Veltem to look for additional pigeons and birds to crossbreed with the toppers in his breeding loft. This man could very well be the best short middle distance racer in the region of Leuven and he has little pigeons. Omer bought two hens and a cock. It turned out to be a success story as well. The mother of one of the two yearlings who obtained the national title comes from Michiels. The elderly man cannot provide pedigrees: he is not interested in “paper pigeons”…
Omer’s latest acquisitions come from the breeding centre in Lanaken where he obtained 4 youngsters from the line of ‘de 231’ of the Engels loft. These superb pigeons will have to establish their breeding talents in the years to come and will be coupled to the many champions of Willems, Vandenheede and Michiels…

‘Den 255 licht kras' - 2115255/05’ – This cock was certainly not inferior to his colleague and together, they provided Omer with the national title. The pigeon achieved the following results in 2006…: Momignies 12th/308, 85th/308, 18th/181 ; Soissons 7th/271 ; Toury 69th/264 loc, 329th/1099 west, 472nd/1551 obrafo, 594th/2102 Fleurus ; 5th/127 loc, 6th/675 west, 10th/959 obrafo, 23rd/1542 Fleurus ; 14th/117 loc, 43rd/762 west, 76th/1194 obrafo, 135th/1846 Fleurus ; 6th/68 loc, 32nd/715 west, 40th/967 obrafo, 91st/1429 Fleurus ; 5th/100 loc, 10th/554 west, 16th/751 obrafo, 20th/1137 Fleurus ; 2nd/60 loc, 3rd/554 west, 11th/839 obrafo, 15th/1178 Fleurus ; 1st/30 loc, 3rd/335 west, 18th/472 obrafo, 18th/689 Fleurus.

Breeding and racing
About 15 breeding couples as well as the widowers are put together at the start of December. Only 50 youngsters are ringed for own use. Omer has no preference for youngsters. When they fly well, he obviously considers this as a welcome bonus. But if the young pigeons perform less good that’s no disaster. A good young cock is no guarantee for success as a widower. Omer has provided evidence to the contrary during the past season. The two best yearlings (274 and 255) have only flown the Momignies or the Soissons race five times last year. Pigeon 255 flew 5 out of 5 but stayed behind in a race for 10 days and was not raced again. Pigeon 274 raced 3 out of 5 and was stopped. They were only kept because of their descent and looks. The youngsters are darkened from mid February until mid May and they are raced with open door until early August. Afterwards, most of them are raced on the nest in August and September. The young pigeons usually work their way to Momignies (106 km) in five stages (5 km, 2 X 15 km, 2 X 35 km). Once the season has started, training during the week is rare. The birds are put into the baskets for Soissons (204 km) as soon as they can go to France and if the weather allows it. They are basketed every week for this purpose and never fly a middle distance race. The remaining young cocks are moved to the widower’s loft in order to be tested for middle distance racing as a yearling. As far as 2007 is concerned, the team of 7 remaining old pigeons and yearlings will be completed with 10 young cocks. The widowers were not allowed to go out for four months during the past winter and they are not moved to an aviary, a system which is applied by many other fanciers. They receive a light low-protein diet. When the widowers were aired for the first time in 2006, they flew for more than an hour. In the days that followed two cocks, among which one of the better racers of the previous season, appeared to be barely able to fly. The verdict of the vet (Herbots) was … too much strain on stiff muscles… It did not work out for these two pigeons this season. That is the reason why Omer decided to air the widowers in the winter months at least once a week if weather conditions are good. They also receive a slightly more solid diet. The pigeons are trained twice before the start of the season and fly a middle distance race every week after the preparatory races from Momignies and Soissons until the week before the national Bourges race takes place. Then, they are allowed to stay with their hen and they can raise a youngster until it is three weeks old. Omer always shows the hen to the cock a few minutes before the racer is put into the basket. The same method is applied during the season, there is no extra motivation.

Feed and care
The vet (Raf Herbots) is consulted usually only before the start of the season. In general, Omer is following the Herbots schedule and uses Herbots products. The pigeons receive spartrix or appertex against tricho when they are brooding. Apart from that, the pigeons do not receive any course of treatment. The widowers and the youngsters get a treatment for thick head diseases before the races start. During the racing season, they get spartrix or appertex every 14 days and an extra treatment for thick head diseases after a bad race.
At the beginning of the week, the pigeons receive super diet and racing mixture. The birds get a filled feed box of racing mixture during the last three times they get fed. When the season’s over, they receive a moulting mixture and when the last flight feather has grown again, Omer switches to a purification mixture until the birds are coupled. He regularly adds brewer’s yeast to the feed and 4-oils or sedochol. He rarely adds vitamins and if he does, he adds them on Wednesdays. The pigeons find fresh water in the drinking fountain when they return from a race but a couple of hours later, Omer adds electrolytes or honey to the water. During the first days of the week he regularly adds Herbots tea and the young pigeons frequently receive garlic or cider vinegar in the water.

List of achievements 2006
Since the number of widowers is very limited in Omer’s loft, we will be mentioning the results of two older pigeons together with the two yearlings (2115274/05 and 2115255/05) which provided Omer with the national title, as well as the best old pigeon (2205243/04) plus picture. You will be able to tell that these two old birds were certainly not inferior to their colleagues.
2293006/03: descends from a combination of Freddy Vandenheede X Benny Willems and raced … Momignies 18th/215, 41st/144 ; Soissons 76th/250 ; Toury 28th/131 loc, 58th/772 zone west, 108th/1052 obrafo; 25th/148 loc, 108th/700 west, 148th/986 obrafo ; 23rd/97 loc, 50th/539 west, 107th/874 obrafo ; 15th/66 loc, 74th/567 west, 92nd/782 obrafo ; 8th/85 loc, 18th/411 west, 36th/581 obrafo ; 5th/52 loc, 15th/450 west, 23rd/648 obrafo ; 2nd/32 loc, 3rd/289 west, 6th/383 obrafo.
2205286/04 : descends from pigeons of Raoul and Xavier Verstraete X Freddy Vandenheede and has obtained the following prizes this season …
Momignies 58th/215 ; Soissons 21st/250 ; Toury 106th/772 zone west, 185th/1052 obrafo ; 471st/986 obrafo ; 3rd/91 loc, 3rd/588 west, 6th/831 obrafo ; 3rd/97 loc, 3rd/539 west, 5th/874 obrafo ; 133rd/567 west, 167th/782 obrafo ; 2nd/85 loc, 7th/411 west, 12th/581 obrafo ; 116th/450 west, 193rd/648 obrafo ; 3rd/32 loc, 4th/289 west, 11th/383 obrafo.

As mentioned before, Omer does not really prefer young pigeons but they have proven to be good in speed races from Momignies or Soissons. They performed better in races of distances of 205 km compared to races of 106 km. Everyone is looking forward to the middle distance races of 2007 …
24/06 : Momignies (380 p) 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, 67th (9/23).
13/07 : Momignies (246 p) 2nd, 3rd, 35th, 36th (4/16).
16/07 : Soissons (190 p) 15e, 29e, 33e, 34e, 37e, 38e (8/16).
21/07 : Momignies (268 p) 6e, 7e (3/11).
23/07 : Soissons (475 p) 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 22nd, 38th, 39th, 62nd (15/21).
26/07 : Momignies (239 p) 10th, 20th, 24th (4/7).
30/07 : Soissons (495 p) 3rd, 8th, 20th, 25th, 73rd (10/18).
06/08 : Soissons (470 p) 20th, 21st, 22nd, 81st (7/15).
27/08 : Soissons (177 p) 2nd, 30th, 36th, 43rd (4/6).
03/09 : Momignies (229 p) 6th, 31st, 36th, 43rd (4/10).
10/09 : Laon (118 p) 3rd, 14th, 20th, 31st (4/8).
24/09 : Momignies (139 p) 6th, 11th (2/8).

Omer obtained the following prizes in the championships organised by “verbroedering Tienen” in the French races: 5th best youngsters loft and 6th with 1+2 youngsters.
The excellent performances with old pigeons and yearlings obviously resulted in some nice final results in the championships in spite of the very limited number of pigeons:
Local : 3rd best loft old, 1st 1+2 old and 2nd ace pigeon old with 2205243/04.
3rd best loft yearlings, 3rd 1+2 yearlings and 1st ace pigeon yearlings with 2115274/05.
4th general champion of the association.
Zone West : 7th 1+2 old and 2nd ace pigeon old; 8th best yearlings loft, 4th 1+2 yearlings and 1st ace pigeon yearlings.
Obrafo : 8th 1+2 old and 3rd ace pigeon old; 4th 1+2 yearlings and 1st ace pigeon yearlings.