Op de Beeck-Baetens, Putte (BE)

Op de Beeck - Baetens

Introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the sport.
I am David Baetens and I race together with my dad, Eddy Baetens, and my granddad, Willy Op de Beeck under the name: Op de Beeck – Baetens for 2 years. Before that I raced under my own name just like my granddad and my great granddad did (Op de Beeck Jules). I started in the sport due to spending time in the lofts with my great grandfather. He also made sure I got a good start in the sport by allowing me to take whatever I wanted from his breeding loft. That was in 1989. Jules had raced from 1920 till 2000 and always with success. After I started in ’89, my grandfather also started again after he had been out of the sport for several years due to his work. This situation made that the 3 of us were racing against each other as competitors in the nineties. This was a situation with advantages and disadvantages. After the death of Jules, we decided to race together under one name. My dad and me, we focus on middle distance races while my grandfather focuses a bit more on the longer races.

What are your most important results?
That is a difficult question: Personally I pay more attention to a season with regular good results than a season with 1-2 extraordinary results combined with a lot of average or below average results. Me and my dad, we chose the middle distance as our focus and it is not that uncommon in our region as there is a tough competition on these distances (We live in Putte, the same village where ‘Van Hove-Uytterhoeven’ and ‘Flor Engels and sons’ live). There are also some results in one loft races in Germany and China that I am glad about (e.g.: 1997: 1st prize Bayerwaldrennen (with only 1 bird entered in the race) / 1998: 1st prize 1st end race Rietberg; 1st prize 2nd end race Rietberg; 2nd + 5th prize Nanjing one loft race / 2000: 1st prize Upland derby / 2002: 1st + 2nd prize 2nd end race Rietberg and 5/5).

If I can go back a bit further in the past, then I consider the results of the first pigeon I banded as an independent pigeon racer also important to me: 6525001/89. This pigeon has won 5* 1st, 1* 2nd and 5* 3rd prize and can still be found in the pedigree of a lot of the birds we have in our lofts nowadays. Of course as a beginner, I was spoiled for life with such a bird. If I have to choose one result out of the 2002 season, then it is a yearling race on Pithiviers (365 km): against 301 birds (61 lofts) we took 1st and 2nd spot with our 1st and 2nd assigned bird and 7 out of 9 birds basketed made a prize. Our yearling was that day also the fastest bird of all the 15.421 birds released in Pithiviers (old birds, yearlings and yb’s).

On which results do you put a high value?
I prefer birds that have a list of good results instead of birds that have 1 extraordinary result but not much beside that.

What do you still want to achieve in the future?
Since 2002 was a very good year, maintaining the same level the next years would already be a success. And of course trying to do a bit better each year. And perhaps one day we will also find time to focus on young birds too

Which races do you mainly compete in?
Like I mention before, we race mainly on middle distance races. We focus almost completely on races with yearlings and old birds. The young birds are raced but we don’t pay a lot of attention to them. Besides that, the young cocks that are needed for the next season never do more than 3 middle distance races.

Do you focus on a specific race?
Not particularily

How and with which strains have you molded your current colony?
The biggest contribution to our colony are still the birds of my great grandfather Jules Op de Beeck. We added a few lines to these birds that crossed very well with them for example Karel Schellens. The last years, several birds of Van Dyck Dirk & Louis were added and the crossing of these lines (Kannibaal, Bourges, Rambo) with our birds has worked out very well for us.

How do you try to improve your colony?
Like most people I think: By breeding from the best available birds and testing the offspring. From time to time we acquire some birds from a good loft to cross them in.

How many pigeons do you race?
Somewhere between 30-35 old birds and yearlings are on the lofts where my dad and I try to tackle the middle distance races with. That’s certainly not a small number but it is also the main focus of the whole season. We pay a lot less attention to the young birds and certainly the cocks are just trained for their future. Once they are a yearling, the selection starts rightaway: if they are healthy and don’t show themselves after a few weeks, they are not longer raced. But we keep them all in the loft to keep the equilibrium that was there at the beginning of the season and they also keep training along with the other birds.

On which system are the cocks/hens raced?
We don’t race hens and the cocks are raced on classical widowhood.

Which are the criteria the young birds have to comply with to be allowed in the lofts the next year?
Actually not much when it comes to race achievements. Like I told before, we don’t put any effort in yb racing so it would be unfair to judge them after that season. Most of the time our best yearlings were not our best yb’s in the previous season cause they have never been motivated a lot to race. Of course it is a good thing if they show themselves a couple of times as a yb. Hower I think that people that really race their yb’s, that they should put more importance on the achievements to select for the next year.

How many young birds do you breed?
We breed more or less 70 ‘early’ young birds (1st round of the breeders and some of the best racers) that can be raced a whole season if we wanted that. And then we also breed 35-40 youngsters from later rounds that serve as a ‘back-up’ in case the first round ends up in one or more smash races with very poor returns. By doing it this way, we are more or less sure we can have a full team of yearlings each year.

Do you inbreed?
For the racing team I am not at all a supporter of close inbreeding. From time to time we do it for birds that will be tested in the breeding loft but only with birds that have proven themselves already as a breeder.

You often hear people tell about THE BASIC PAIR. Do you also have such a pair or do you change pairings all the time?
We have a few pairs that we keep together but all the other couplings are changed each year, even when they already gave good ones. The cocks out of the pairs that stay together do get a second hen however.

A lot of fanciers appear to have troubles to keep their birds healthy, how do you try to prevent that?
e try to let them acquire a maximum natural immunity before the racing season starts. We think that it might come in handy during the season. For example, up to now we never experienced young bird sickness in our lofts.

Do you use breeding boxes or normal nestboxes to breed?
We don’t have breeding boxes for the breeders. They are together in one loft and use the same basic nestboxes as the widowers do.

Do you use grids in the loft or do you prefer to clean out the lofts each day?
We only have metal grids in the fly pens of the breeders. In the lofts of the widowers, we clean the loft twice a day during the racing season. In the winter months, there is straw on the floor and we never clean the lofts out then. In the lofts of the young birds, there is always straw on the floor and only once every 3-4 weeks, we clean the nestboxes.

Do you have a lot of room for your pigeons?
Yes we do have a lot of room for the birds. We don’t like to bring a lot of birds together on a small space as I think it might bring more risks regarding the health of the birds.

What is your opinion about the compulsory vaccination against paramyxo?
I think it is a good thing but I also think that most good fanciers already did it before to avoid unnecessary risks.

Did you use the Electronic clocking this year?
Yes we can use it for the first time this year (2003) on the middle distance races. My granddad already tested it last year on the longer distances and we are very pleased with the system.

What kind of feed do the widowers get?
They get a commercial racing mixture (Vanrobaeys)

Do the widowers get the feed individually in their boxes or all together on the loft?
Each compartiment normally races the same races so they get the feed on the ground and are not fed individually.

How do you feed the young birds?
The first months of their life, they get the same breeding mixture as the breeders. Later on we switch to a moulting mixture.

Do you find it important to distribute minerals, grit, electrolytes, … on the loft?
Minerals, grit and picking stone are more or less always available to the racers. Electrolytes are something they get on the day of arrival if it has been a tough race.

Do you use the darkening system?
No, we have never used the darkening system up to now because we don’t focus on young bird races. Therefore it has not that much use for us. Once they start moulting too hard, we just leave them home and season is over for them. Of course without darkening, it also means we don’t race the young bird nationals in the second half of August and in September.

Do your pigeons have to train a lot? Do you often toss them?
We never make them fly by using a flag or something. The old birds train twice a day for 45-60 minutes. Once the races have started, they are never tossed anymore. The young birds have to train once a day and when they start their races, they are also never tossed anymore.

Do your birds get extra vitamins?
Our birds get vitamins on a regular base because I think that racing a whole season is quite tough on the birds and it is important that their reserves are always replenished.

Do you also give preventive (blind) cures?
Very seldom. I prefer to consult a vet when I think that something is wrong with the birds instead of trying to figure out myself what is wrong. I also think that if you use the cures too much when they are not needed, the same cures work a lot less when you really need them.

Is it important that birds, just like humans, get a varied feed?
I think it is important, but I also think nowadays most commercial mixtures have enough variety.

Are there specific qualities about a bird that you look for? (Wing, eye, …)
I think all has to be more or less in equilibrium if you take a bird in your hand, although the very best birds are physically often not what we expect them to be if we look at them. The most important quality is the inside of the bird and we cannot judge that. If there is something I like a lot in a bird, it is soft plumage. But in the end, the basket is always the best judge!

What do you think about eye-sign?
I like to look at the eyes and the last year I have read quite a lot about the theory, but personally I think that like all theories, it is not waterproof (yet). I also don’t know enough about it yet to use it as a selection tool myself. Like I said above: in the end the basket is the best judge.

With what kind of pigeons would you like to form a colony: pedigree-birds or proven race birds?
Preferably I would like to start a colony with birds that combine both: good ancestors combined with good results in the races. But if I have to choose, I take the proven racer. That doesn’t mean we never test an unraced bird in our breeding lofts if he shows enough physical qualities. Once a bird is transferred to the breeding loft, neither a good pedigree, neither a good race career is a guarantee for successful breeding.

Do you find a lot of information on the net, books, articles,…? And do you use this information?
Through these channels there is indeed a lot of information to be found nowadays. And I also read it but rather to be informed. We are not that eager to start change our management right away after reading something new.

What do you do with the birds after the racing season?
The national Bourges (last weekend of July) is for our old birds the last race. The ones that can stay for next year then get the opportunity to raise a couple of youngsters. And after that, they are left alone through the winter till the end of December then they are coupled again. Soon after the old birds are stopped racing, we also bring the new birds in the loft already for next season.

Do you also breed from the widowers?
Yes we do breed from the widowers cause I think it is important to identify possible new breeders quickly. In general I think that the quality from the yb’s out of the good racers is no different than those from the breeders. After all: nowadays racers are tomorrow’s breeders. Yearlings are sometimes used to feed youngsters from other couples.

When do you couple your birds?
The breeders are coupled normally the first week of December, the widowers around Christmas.

Do you give your pigeons tea or apple cider vinegar? Or something else ?
The pigeons get regularly tea during the moulting season but also during racing season they sometimes get tea during the day. Apple cider vinegar is something we give to the young birds.

Do you do something special after a race?
After a tough race, the birds get electrolytes to recuperate as quickly as possible cause most of the birds have to race each weekend so it is important to start as quickly with recuperation as possible for the next race.

Do the birds get a bath?
Most of the weeks, the pigeons get the possibility to take a bath on Monday or Tuesday. The exceptions are the weeks when it is rather cold and wet. We add bath salt to the water.

Do you think that there is a lot of difference between short distance /middle distance/ long distance birds?
I think that there might be a difference but that can’t be exaggerated in my opinion. It also depends a lot on the system the bird is tried in. A pigeon that has raced her whole life sprint races cannot be switched suddenly to long distances and the other way around. If on the other hand, the same bird is prepared in a proper way for a certain distance, the chance to succeed is already bigger. But whatever the distance is: Good birds are needed to do well.

Just like all fanciers, you want even better birds, how do you try to accomplish that?
By going to a fancier that we trust and get something from his best lines. These new lines are tested then cause not everything works out the way it was planned.

Which advice do you have for a new fancier?
Patience is a nice thing and certainly in pigeon racing!! If you have to start from scratch, the building up – process will take a few years at least. You can’t expect to compete each week of the season with experienced fanciers. Certainly in the beginning, the process of testing and selecting birds is very important cause often you have to start out with birds you don’t know much about (unless you are able to buy proven breeding pairs but for a lot of people that is financially not possible). So until you got a good base to work on, selecting is the way to go. Good advice from everyone is welcome but you can’t change your system each time you think you hear something you like that is different than the way you are doing it. There are several ways to reach your goal but jumping from one way to another is often not the quickest way.