Raoul & Xavier Verstraete - Oostakker (BE) The most honoured colony of Belgium in 2009

Near the towers of ‘Onze Lieve Vrouw’ of Oostakker - Lourdes there has been a great deal of pigeon history written in the lofts of father Raoul and son Xavier Verstraete. Almost 40 years uninterrupted pigeon success… admit it, it is only reserved for a few of us.

They have to be something very special to be able to equal the honours list that the Verstraete colony has produced over the years… let alone beat it! Their recipe that lies at the basis of these long lines of top successes was and still is… ‘top pigeons’! here is no doubt that Raoul & Xavier have a congenital ‘feeling’ for top pigeons. Not only in their own loft… but also when here or there an opportunity arose there was no doubt as to whether they would buy the ‘super crack’ or ‘super breeder’ in question and to place it in the rich breeding shed in Oostakker. A strategy that lay and lies at the basis of years of top performances and a cartload of titles… something for which they received the title of ‘Loft of Miracles’! The 2009 sport season once again formed a highlight in the richly filled career… on the level of titles and championships won… maybe their best season ever! Here a selection of the most prominent titles from 2009:
1° General Champion Belgische Verstandhouding –Entente Belge 2009
1° Champion ‘Zesdaagse’ Belgische Verstandhouding (with companion Chris Hebberecht)
1° Champions League youngsters (with 1-2-3° nominated in the 4 nationals)
2° General Champion of Belgium KBDB 2009
2° General Champion FVOV
2° Champion FVOV youngsters
3° Interprovincial Champion youngsters FVOV
1° General Champion ‘Long Distance club Eeklo’ 2009 (for the 7° time)
2° Champion ‘Extreme Middle Distance’ Youngsters in Eeklo
2° General Champion 4-D. Zwalmvallei
1° Ace pigeon Zwalmvallei  (400-600 Km races, with the ‘122-05’ daughter ‘Grand Cru Uno’)
2° Junior Cup
7°-8°-11°-15° Prov Ace pigeon Long Distance Old birds KBDB 2009

This is simply the most honoured colony of our country which can be found in the ‘top-3’ in 2009 in nearly all the most important provincial and national championships!

40 years uninterrupted top successes
It must have been around 1968 when Raoul & Xavier made a flashy start in the pigeon sport. In their initial years they mainly sparkled in the sprint and middle distance… it was during this period that the legendary ‘Gouden Bol’ (Olympiad pigeon Sport class ‘73) and his direct descendants sowed ‘terror’ in the pigeon peloton. The success lines of this ‘Gouden Bol’, the ‘Mirage’, the ‘Triller’ (Nat. Ace pigeon KBDB Long Distance youngsters, 1° Prov Bourges and son ‘Mirage’… and so grandson ‘Gouden Bol’)  and the ‘Zilveren’ piloted the Verstraete colony towards ‘national’ and ‘international’ top within the shortest space of time… to never leave! The line of the ‘Elvis’ (1° Nat Ace pigeon Germany), the ‘Rapido’ (1° Prov Ace pigeon Long Distance ’82) and the ‘Panter’(2 x 1° Prov Orleans) from Theo Gilbert from Zulte followed in their footsteps, later the ‘Miljonair’ and the ‘Bolide’(6  x 1° Prize and inbreed ‘Gouden Bol’) came into the picture… and for the longer work pigeons were bought from Robert Venus from Oeren-Alveringem, including the line of the world famous ‘Super crack Gruson’ (3 x 1° National winner). A following top transfer was without doubt the miraculous ‘UNO’ (winner 1° Prov Ace pigeon Middle Distance KBDB and 1° Nat Bourges yearlings) who amongst other things, was father of ‘Solo’, winner 1° Nat La Souterraine ’91… and of a whole series of exceptional top talent both in the racing and breeding lofts Verstraete... including crossing with ‘Victory’ (1° Prov Ace pigeon Middle distance & Long Distance Youngsters KBDB ’89). The core of the current top lines also stems from this period with pigeons such as the ‘Admiral’, the ‘Super breeder 343/98’ (via joint breeding with Roger Debusschere) and the ‘Cadillac’. Over the last few years the successes were generally in the provincial and national ‘grand middle distance’ up to the ‘small long distance’… then over the last few seasons there has been a turn towards top performances in the races of the ‘national Long Distance calendar’ via the introduction of 4 super breeding hens… 2 originating from Chris Hebberecht from Evergem, 2 from Cas de Graaff from Arnemuiden (NL):
-by Chris Hebberecht they were the ‘Blauwe Kathy’ and the ‘Geschelpte Kathy 502/01’ (1° Ace pigeon Long Distance youngsters ’01 Nat. Long Distance trophy and daughter of ‘Panda’: winner 3-year classification Primus Inter Pares Brugse Barcelona club)… who coupled with the ‘Cadillac’ is mother of the current star breeder ‘Topstar’                03-4343129         03-4343129, winner
1° club & 66° Nat Beziers 9.191 p. in 2004
1°club & 77° Nat Montauban 7.303 p. in 2005
(before dissolving his demons in the breeding loft)… according to Raoul & Xavier the best breeder that they have every had in their lofts by far… and father of their current generation of ‘super talent’, including wonder boy ‘XTRA’: winner
1° Nat Cahors 5.425 p. in 2008
21° Nat Brive 14.521 p. in 2008
Coupled with ‘Ourasi 980/98’, this ‘Geschelpte Kathy’ is then mother of ‘Belga Queen’: 2° Nat Ace pigeon Long Distance Yearlings Cureghem Centre 2007 and 5° Olympiad pigeon Marathon (see further).
-By Cas De Graaff Raoul & Xavier obtained 2 daughters of his 2° Nat Dax, being ‘Maxima’ (mother of ‘Major’, but also of the 53° Nat Narbonne 6.801 p, 91° Nat Narbonne, 196° Nat Brive 16.007 p, 319° Nat Montauban, 289° Nat Cahors, 2° St.Vincent… ) and the ‘Gravin’. Coupled with the ‘Flippo’, the ‘Gravin’ was mother of top hen ‘DIVA 099/03’: winner 1° Prov Dax 934 p., 2° Intnat 1.930 Hens and 6° Nat Dax 4.534 p. in 2005! This hen was coupled with ‘Topstar’ and was mother of the aforementioned national winner Cahors, the ‘XTRA’!
The newest reinforcements came via joint breeding with Gaby Vandenabeele (with Topstar and Xtra), with Chris Hebberecht, with the 2° Nat Ace pigeon 2009 from Daniel Verstichel, and with Luc Waldack. The current loft consistency is then mainly based on the stock pigeon ‘Topstar’ with his children, grandchildren, half-brothers and half-sisters, in crossing with aforementioned pigeons and the old stock.
With this mix of pigeons Raoul & Xavier are trying to breed the modern ‘all round pigeon’ which can race ‘top’ from say 300 to 900 kilometres! 

Racing system
It can be said that the entire racing system is more or less based on widowhood, even though Xavier discovered that youngsters with a nest could also do surprisingly well, and often give the head bird a run for his money.  The youngsters of the 1° and 2° round, 100 to 120 from both the breeders as the best racing pigeons, are being put to the test… and not spared anything. To which Raoul laughingly adds… I am now 79years old … why should I spare my pigeons? The youngsters are darkened from the beginning of March to about the middle of June or the longest day. Then lighting is used… although Xavier sometimes doubts whether this is really necessary… and is possibly harmful to the further career of their cocks. In any case, the pigeons remain together for as long as possible, until just before the first national races for the youngsters… this with the intention of obtaining as many ‘couples’ as possible by the youngsters at that moment. They are then separated and raced further with the sliding door. They come together for 1 hour just before basketting. Only 5 of the better hens are coupled with an old cock and race with a nest… a question of not putting all your eggs into one basket. In addition, you can also set your watch by the nest hens says Xavier… the liveliest hens are often toppers in their ideal distance… the ‘winners’ in the races. All the hens race weekly alternating a provincial ‘grand middle distance race’ from the OVV-FVOV with a ‘national Long Distance competition’. The cocks normally only race a national competition every two weeks, although Raoul sometimes dares to keep a few of the better cocks at home before the last Gueret, with an eye on the future. But the majority races then the 4 national long distance races for youngsters. Race and test everything, and then a strict selection… the only real road to success, according to our hosts! And who dares contradict them? Top performances for more than 40 years prove they are right!  Youngsters in condition can take a few blows says Raoul… and in August you don’t easily break ‘strong youngsters’! Motivation is and remains the basis to success… a shelf or dark corner here, a box or an extra hiding place there, some extra straw etc… it is often the small things that give the extra motivation for top successes, and something that the attentive fancier has to pay heed to. Pigeons often let you know in advance if they are preparing for some sort of ‘stunt’… all you have to do as fancier is notice it!
The youngsters are trained a lot beforehand, starting at the end of April. Before they go into the ‘big basket’ with the rest of society they have often already raced 15 trainings races, starting at 5km up to the French border… the aim being to teach the youngsters to orientate… experience is never lost! A good preparation is a good basis for later… because afterwards it is very seldom that a pigeon is lost. There is always an open basket (large travelling basket like the ones in the club) in the loft in which the youngsters can walk in and out freely, and so learn to eat and rink in the basket… that sparest hem extra stress later in the basket because they are already used to it.

The old birds are raced according to the principle of total widowhood. The middle distance and long distance pigeons, old birds and yearlings all reside in the same loft. 22 to 24 couples are raced in this manner, while another 15 loose hens without a partner are also raced. In addition there is also a team of cocks (15, the old long distance team) who are raced according to the classic widowhood. A few of the racing pigeons generally take part in early breeding, although this is not a rule… but more a question of change, and not putting all your eggs into one basket. A 2nd coupling follows around the 1st of April, and after a short brooding period, widowhood begins. The old birds are also well trained, sometimes from the French border 8 to 10 times. They then soon go via Noyon (or Clermont) to the middle distance from Angerville… and during the 2nd week of May the majority are given provincial Blois, the long distance team is normally given Vierzon a week later, as preparation for Brive. The hens here are basketted weekly from Blois for the provincial and national ‘grand middle distance races’… it is every 2 weeks for the cocks. If some hens pair amongst themselves, or even build a nest… no problem, that’s the way they are basketted. As long as they are motivated and want to come ‘home’… it makes no difference! Our hosts have stuck to a few principles over the years, partly from their own experience… which form a guide to their successful pigeon sport. In Oostakker they discovered that hens are the ‘stronger sex’ in the pigeon sport, both in racing as in breeding. The ladies can be basketted weekly for races of 500 Km… as soon as they are put to breed it is they who have to take care of the eggs, eggs that have to contain all the necessary nutrients for developing ‘young champions’… and the hen also decides the ‘gender’ of the future youngster!

The selection takes place in the races starting at 500 Km… long distance never lies, says Xavier… how greater the distance, how much more the ‘class’ of the pigeon starts playing a certain role. And, but be careful… long distance pigeons always have a ‘good plumage’, necessary for withstanding the changeable weather conditions in the race home from the long distance races with success. Also the motivation, and the transfer of this motivation from the fancier to the pigeon in question… plays an important role. In the first instance, a pigeon comes home for his ‘territory’, then for his partner… factors that as a pigeon fancier, you have to try and take advantage of. The loft climate also plays an important role. Dry and warm… better too warm, than cold… so careful with the ventilation of the lofts, and certainly no ‘draught’ in the lofts! All the lofts have floor heating, and on the floor there are grids or a thick layer of straw.

On the medical level Xavier emphasises that they only do the most essential. Many fanciers really play with fire in this respect. It is better to give one good cure for 7 days than 2 cures for 3 days, let alone a disinfectant for 1 day when they return home! 3 or 4 weeks before the start of the national long distance calendar the pigeons are normally given a 10 day cure against paratyphoid fever  (but no vaccination). For trichomonasis a first coupling is treated for 5 days, which is repeated just before the start of the racing season. During the season a Flagyl tablet is given every 3 or 4 weeks… and that should normally be enough. And for the heads? Soludox for 5 days just before the season, sometimes repeated with a cure in the middle of the season, depending on the condition of the racing team. For the rest they only use constructive and condition supporting products, mainly from the firm ‘Klaus’ with ‘Jet 2000’ (an iodine preparation), Geniespulver (amino acids), ‘Kombi-olie’, Picorin min Mix… and electrolytes + honey when they return home from the races for a speedy recovery… and simple but essential products so as apple vinegar, brewer’s yeast and vitamins. Once again, Xavier emphasises that they are ‘supporting’ products… but necessary, especially, if like us, you give the pigeons a tough programme, whereby the hens are basketted almost every week, but the majority of the long distance men race all 4 (sometimes 5) national long distance races per season. Recuperation and construction… an aspect not to be understated in our modern pigeon sport. At the beginning of the week the pigeons are given a lot of light mixture (Vandenabeele mixture), the final days they are fed up with sport mixture and especially a great deal of fat towards the day of basketting in the form of ‘Energy-mixture’, extra nibbling seeds and peanuts! Lt one thing be clear: you can’t keep going for long with a lot of medicine, and certainly not remain at the top of the international pigeon sport for 40 years, so as Raoul & Xavier have managed to do!

Who can do better?
The great number of exceptional ‘crack pigeons’ that have seen the light of day in Oostakker and have flown above Oostakker – Lourdes, their very strong performances… at the end of the day translated in superior ‘title wins’ in several Championships… , but also the strong… say the ‘very great class’ of the Verstraete-pigeon! At the moment it is ‘TOPSTAR’ who is ringing all the bells… Raoul & Xavier state unanimously: the best breeding and racing pigeon that has ever resided in our loft, no… we never had a better one. And he is still in the prime of his life… and nowhere near the end of his time. His honours list can be seen above, let us then concentrate on his breeding results:

Included in his direct children we find the following top racers:
-‘XTRA 522/06’
: 1° Nat Cahors 5.425 p, 3° Nat Zone 4.381 p. + 21° Nat Brive 14.521p., 3° Chateauroux 605 p., 5° Chateauroux 1.037 p.
-‘609-06’: 1° Chateauroux 561 p. + 3° Prov 2.853 p.
-‘007-07’: 83° Nat St.Vincent I 7.356 p., 87° Nat St.Vincent II 8.628 p., 2° Epehy 149 p.
-‘254-07’: 32° Nat Zone Souillac ’09 en 85° Nat Tulle 5.676 p. ‘09
-‘367-06’: 70° Nat Montauban 7.203 p. ’09, 3° Nat Zone Cahors 1.834 p., 3° Chateauruox 605 p.
-‘408-06’: 54° Nat Zone Brive 4.381 p. ‘08
-‘077-09’: 2° Noyon 241 p. ‘09
-‘088-09’: 16° Gueret 522 p., 21° La Souterraine 798 p., 68° Argenton 1.025 p. in ‘09

A few grandchildren have already performed as follows:
-‘024-08’: 1° Bourges 1.175 p. + 19° Nat Bourges 41.783 p. in ’08, 1° La Souterraine 715 p. ‘08
-‘075-07’: 1° Giessen 360 p. in ‘07
-‘083-07’: 187° Nat Tulle 5.676 p. ‘09
-‘045-07’: 253° Nat Souillac ‘09
-‘101-07’: 1° Orleans 392 p.
-other grandchildren of ‘Topstar’ won in 2009 a.o. 2°-4° Noyon 503 p., 7°-9°-13° Bourges 1.255 p., 7°-8° Argenton 1.025 p., 19°-21°-28°-39° La Souterraine 798 p….
Included in his half-brothers and half-sisters we come across several excellent pigeons, the main ones being:
-‘Belga Queen 399-06’ (daughter of ‘Ourasie 980/98’ x ‘Kathy 502/01’), she won:
2° Nat. Ace pigeon Cureghem Centre Yearlings ‘07
72° Nat Irun 8.967 p. in ‘07
71° Nat St.Vincent 6.521 p. in ‘07
24° Intnat Tarbes 2.235 Hens in ’08, 248° Intnat Tarbes 12.537 p.
73° Intnat Narbonne 1.464 Hens in ’08
17° Intnat Narbonne 2.282 Hens in ’09, 183° Intnat Narbonne 14.505 p.
132° Intnat Pau 1.753 Hens in ‘09
-‘110-05’: 59° Nat Montauban 6.187 p.
-‘Forza 040-07’ (son of half-brother ‘Topstar’) won a.o.:
14° Nat Cahors 7.347 p. in ‘09
5° Argenton 657 p.
396° Nat Limoges 11.869 p. in ‘09
402° Nat Souillac 7.597 p. in ‘09
424° Nat Perpignan 7.364 p. in ‘09
-‘021-07’ (out half-brother ‘Topstar’) won:
118° Nat Brive 17.456 p. in ‘09
119° Nat Zone Souillac ‘09
259° Nat Limoges 11.869 p. ‘09
290° Nat Limoges Yearlings 16.012 p. ‘08

Let it be clear to everybody… this is without doubt one of the best breeding lines in our country at the moment… and also a breeding line in full glory, over which the last piece of history has not yet been written! A line, which in crossing with the Cas De Graaff pigeons, has produced real ‘top talent’. Another descendant of the Cas De Graaff-hens who presents himself as one of the top figures in the racing loft is
-de ‘Major’               04-4284139         04-4284139 (son of the ‘Admiral 032/94’ x ‘Maxima 216/01’), he won o.a.
236° Nat Limoges 13.581 p. in ‘06
223° Nat Souillac 6.475 p. in ‘06
467° Nat Bourges 19.084 p. in ‘07
196° Nat Brive 16.007 p. in ‘08
183° Nat Brive 17.446 p. in ‘09
188° Nat Tulle 5.676 p. in ‘09
151° Nat Souillac 7.597 p. in ’09 (64° Nat Zone A 3.290 p.)
141° Nat Limoges 11.869 p. in ‘09
970° Nat Montauban 7.203 p. in ‘09

In addition to these new richly successful breeding lines there is of course still the core line of the legendary ‘UNO’… which mainly still causes furore in the provincial ‘grand middle distance races’ to the ‘light long distance’ . One of the best racing hens of the loft at the moment is without doubt the ‘Daughter Grand Cru Uno 122/05’, her wins include
1° Ace pigeon Zwalmvallei (400-650 Km against more than 400 members)
1° Chateauroux 489 p…
An in 4 years won more than 40 prizes in races between the 150 and 600 Km!
In 2009 the ‘Figuno’ also produced 3 excellent youngsters with:
-‘090-09’: 1° Noyon 418 p.
-‘057-09’: 2° Noyon 509 p., 10° Argenton 1.025 p., 72° Prov 8.004 p. and 343° Nat Argenton 23.900 p… won 10 prizes in 12 races
-‘058-09’: won 11 prizes in 12 races
Another top product of the ‘Uno-line’ is the ‘019-07’ coming out ‘Mambo 019/04’ x ‘Victoria 092/03’ (both parents sold via PiPa). This ‘019-07’ won:
1° Dudelange 793 p. ‘07
28° La Souterraine 646 p. ‘07
6° Poitiers 475 p. ‘09
37° Limoges 620 p.
13° Chateauroux 517 p.
7° Argenton 312 p.
22° Limoges 422 p. en 397° Nat 11.869 p. etc…
And then there is the ‘Blue Xavier 078/07’ (an inbred product ‘Uno’) who by Mr P.Grioss in Austria won a.o.:
1° Ace pigeon St-Polten 2009 (870 pkt)
1° Frankfurt 1.412 p. (530 Km)
5° Nat Ace pigeon Oostenrijk 2009
This ‘Uno-line’ has proved his worth for 15 consecutive years, not only in the Verstraete lofts in Oostakker, but also in various other lofts worldwide, we are thinking of Kees Bosua who wrote history with this Uno-line. Every year a cartload of references pour in from fanciers who have found top success via the introduction of the Verstraete pigeons to their colony. More than 750 different fanciers who have won 1 or more 1° prizes with ‘their’ Verstraete pigeons. References that are taking on the form of a bulky book, a few of the main and most recent are
-Krysztof Pruski: 1° Ace pigeon Poland Cat A (100-400 Km) ’08-’09 Sosnowiec (line Uno x ‘Bol’ x ‘Miljonair’)
-Ernst Nebel: won 1° Ace pigeon of Germany 2009 (with Charly) and was the deliverer of the 1° Ace hen of Germany (Charline)… (Uno-line)
-Pasztor Robert: 1° + 3° Ace pigeon Hungary 2009
-Chris Hebberecht: best yearling + best youngster 2009 are 50% Verstraete pigeons. The grandmother (310/85)  also from the famous ‘Champion’ (2° Nat Ace pigeon Long Distance KBDB) is a Verstraete pigeon
-Gebr Van Landeghem: 1° Nat La Souterraine 17.895 p. in 2009 (Panter line via Alfons Slaets)
-Gebr Van de Heuvel: 1° Olympiad pigeon Porto (with ‘Aviator’: from a combination Van Rhee x Uno Verstraete, and late moved to Mike Ganus in the USA)
-Freddy Van den Brande: 2° Olympiad pigeon S-Africa (with grandson Uno)
-Sergio Mazzacani: 1° + 2° Nat Ace pigeon Italy 2009 Sprint (Uno-line)
-Peter Frioss: 5° Nat Ace pigeon Austria 2009 (75% Uno-line)
-J.Kokartis: 1° reserve Olympiad pigeon Dortmund 2008
-Loft Jos Vercammen: their stock pigeon 4271476/85 Panter comes out a crossing (Panter x Gouden Bol x Elvis x Kadet)
-Zdravkov Dimitar: 1° Nat Ace 2003 Bulgaria (with ‘Motiv 898’)
Also S.G.Mack, S.G.Schröder, Stitka-Vogt, Rob. Klement , U.Koningsmann, Rene & Patrick Draye raced in real champion style with descendants from their Raoul & Xavier Verstraete pigeons. A very long list so as we have stated above, that keeps growing year after year… and clearly demonstrates the enormous class, performance ability and the breeding talents of the modern Verstraete pigeon, not only in their own loft but also in countless other lofts worldwide! The name Verstraete is a synonym and ensures ‘world class’! That much is clear! Without doubt one of the best lofts in our national and international pigeon sport at the moment… that was more than proved once again in 2009! Congratulations Raoul & Xavier with this magnificent series of top performances and title wins that you have once again achieved in 2009!