Gerard Koopman & Team (Ermerveen, NL): the philosophy of a fancier – Part II

In the first part of our report we have been discussing the present situation in the lofts of Koopman: we have talked about the achievements of his pigeon family and about the origins of the best racing pigeons in this unique pigeon breed. Today I would like you to get a glimpse of the man behind this team: the idealistic fancier Gerard Koopman.

I had a long conversation with Gerard about this:

Gerard, pigeon fanciers talk a lot about motivation. Motivation is not only important for the pigeons but also for the fancier himself. Let’s talk about the motivation of the fancier. How do you manage to perform at a top level and to focus on all the important races and competitions season after season?

Well, that’s the way I am! It is also the result of my love for the animal, for the pigeon. The relationship between man and animal plays a key role! The mental state of the human being, the fancier and the player, is important as well. If the fancier himself is healthy and does not have any issues in life he will be happy and satisfied. This is one of the main requirements for a successful pigeon racing season. If you are faced with problems, for instance a disease or marital difficulties you will probably have problems in the loft as well, like it or not. I find new motivation during my winter holidays. During my journeys I get to know people from all around the world, both fanciers and businessmen, with all types of characters. I have to say that every person I have met thanks to our sport, which is based on love of animals, was worth getting to know! I really enjoy travelling and it allows me to recharge my batteries after an exhausting season.


Pigeons will never cease to amaze us

It seems to be in my nature. If you are a winner who does not like to lose but you have no problem congratulating your opponent with a great performance, you might become a great champion one day. You should also keep in mind that champions can only play with the pigeons if they are tolerant and respectful towards their opponents. Every single fancier who is involved in our sport these days is actually a winner. Each one of them deserves our respect! I think you should also be a dreamer. Our dreams stimulate us and they help us to set new goals. It happens more than once: when you take one of your pigeons your mind sometimes starts to wander: you see a great bird with a perfect plumage and excellent origins and suddenly you think that this bird will become a champion! Well, some dreams come true! This reminds me of something Jose De Cauwer, a former Belgian cyclist, once said: dreams increase your motivation.

These are the things that keep me motivated. On top of that I have a magnificent team I can always rely on. I never have to worry about my beloved pigeons when I am on holiday in the winter. The members of our team take care of the pigeons as if it were their own birds! When I return home I cannot wait to see my pigeons again. I am mad about my pigeons and I am highly motivated!


Gerard and his father Cornelis in front of their breeders' aviary in New Amsterdam

Let’s discuss the motivation of the pigeons, which I think is related to the character of the pigeon itself. Top class pigeons do not need additional stimulation, they just want to get back home as soon as possible; this is their instinct. We do not experiment with this. In fact we have so many pigeons that are basketed for races that it would be impossible to motivate every individual pigeon. Of course we try to keep things interesting for them, for instance by showing their partner. Still I do not really believe in such methods. A talented pigeon will eventually become a great racer but you cannot turn an average pigeon into a champion. This reminds me of a few years back, when we had some of our best seasons ever. I remember that we have never showed the partner and that we never used any other method to motivate our pigeons in these seasons. I think the pigeons keep themselves motivated and their environment plays an important role here. Is the pigeon fed on a regular basis? Is he or she in stressful situations with other pigeons from time to time? Is your pigeon one of the dominant birds in the loft? Does he feel at ease in his environment? This is something a fancier has to keep an eye on! To conclude, there is of course a basic rule that says: pigeons of great class are always motivated!


Gerard chasing the chickens

Gerard, your loft is of course surrounded by rumours about how the pigeons are being taken care of. Do you have any secrets?

Yes, we have developed a special system but this is not at all a secret. Otherwise we had never allowed the Beyers family to bring our all in one mixture on the market, which we composed ourselves.

Jules Rijckaert, an old friend of mine and one of my best teachers, told me 30 years ago that high class racing pigeons need more than only grain and water. His pigeons have always made this clear to him, when they arrived home after a race completely exhausted, with dirty beak and feet. They need animal proteins. Back then we started feeding them some cheese, on the advice of Jules. Of course it took some time to cut the cheese in pieces. Wouldn’t it be much more convenient to just put it in a blender? Unfortunately cheese is too fat for that, everything would stick. We decided to add peanuts and this made things a lot easier. It was very easy to blend this mixture and the pigeons were fond of it as well. Why did we add some sheep fat as well? Well, we sold a lot of this fat in our store, especially to people with dogs. This fat gives dogs a shiny skin and it protects them from itches, perhaps because it compensates for a lack in vitamins or minerals. I have no idea but it was definitely useful. Beer yeast with sheep fat: it was an improvement in nine out of ten cases.


Got it!

In 1997 I got a visit from Taiwan for the first time. That was the time when our well known Beatrixdoffer no longer bred well. This Taiwanese fancier promised us to send us the recipe for a mixture that would put our pigeon on the tracks again. Sheep fat was on his list as well. This was reason enough for me to use our own mixture of cheese and peanuts a bit more. Sheep fat is relatively cheap and it has a positive influence on our pigeons. This is the composition of our mixture: 60% peanuts, 30% cheese and 10% sheep fat.

Fanciers who find this mixture too complicated or impractical can always purchase Goldcorn, a mixture that we developed. Of course time doesn’t stand still: meanwhile our Goldcorn mixture has become one of the elements in our current Koopman all in one mixture of the Beyers family.

This is what our Goldcorn consists of:
It contains fat, animal proteins with unique features; sunflower oil, linseed oil and peanut oil provide Omega fatty acid; animal fats like egg yolks, cheese and milk give them the additional energy that they need. Wheat germs and vitamin E provide oxygen, which improves endurance. Lucerne, beta-carotene, seaweeds and beer yeast provide the necessary vitamin B complex and essential enzymes. Another essential element to be in great fitness is vitamin A, K and E and of course minerals, amino acids and trace elements. Lecithin transports fat through the body and prebiotic improves gut flora, which has a positive influence on the health of the pigeon! Soybean meal and peanut meal provide additional energy for the more demanding flights. Our mixture also contains such vitamins as K3, B complex, C, A, D3, E etc. In fact a good piece of advice from our tutor Jules put the development of this product in motion. This development has not yet come to an end but it is already a milestone when it comes to taking care of your pigeons.


Gerard and his Goldcorn

With our all in onemixture we have developed a mixture that can be used throughout the year. You can also add some barley and some paddy race if you like. I hope this makes clear that we do not have any secrets: we make everything public. We will definitely try out some new things in the years to come. If something appears to work out well we will be happy to share it with other fanciers!

Gerard, thanks for providing valuable information. We are sure that you have a lot more interesting stories to tell but we have almost reached the end of our report. Maybe you could share some useful tips with our readers?

There is one thing that I learned from the master Louis Van Loon that has been my motto throughout my career as a fancier: you should never give away your best birds! In the breeding loft you should only use pigeons that stem from good families, families that have already bred several championss. This significantly improves the chance of breeding top class pigeons! In addition I believe in methods that speak for themselves; things that everybody can understand and things that have been proved! Pigeon racing is not something you need an education for. I am not fond of grand, complicated theories. On the other hand, fanciers like the Janssen brothers, Louis van Loon and in the last twenty years Günter Prange have gained a lot of experience over the years. They are on the right track and there is a lot to learn from them! These fanciers are true pioneers in our sport. They are always looking for new methods to raise the quality of their pigeons and to improve their performance! Still they will always pay attention to the nature of the animal and they can almost look inside the mind of the pigeon! I still need races to learn more about the qualities of a pigeon!


The Koopman family on a visit with the Janssen brothers

When I add new pigeons to my family I always look for pigeons that come from great fanciers and I want them to be bred from his best couple. It’s as simple as that. These reinforcements have two or three years to prove their value as good breeding pigeons. If they cannot manage to breed a champion in this period of time I remove the bird and its descendants from the loft. A pigeon has to prove that it is a champion but one achievement is not enough for me. It can take a few years before I am convinced about the qualities of a bird. It took an entire year for Kleine Dirk to convince me that he was an excellent pigeon.

You need a good idea, possibly even a philosophy, and you just have to go for it. Do not get discouraged, despite bad luck. Every fancier has to deal with setbacks sooner or later, there is no way around.

This was part two in our Koopman trilogy. The third report will focus on the references of the Koopman loft. We will discuss some of the lofts that have had some great successes with the Koopman breed!


The cock NL10-5011833, called ‘Jerson’, is to represent The Netherlands in the sports category
at the Olympiad in Nitra (Slovakia) 2013. This is the third pigeon for The Netherlands in the long distance category (C)
.