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Breeding better pigeons using performance pigeons and selection (part 1)

Over the last 13 years we have developed a family that has received 21 Ace pigeon awards in total and 7 of them are No.1 Ace Pigeons of all America. We know there are many roads to Rome. The destination in all cases is the same but not all prefer the same route.

A fast way to the top
That doesn't mean one person is right or the other one is wrong. It is simply a matter of juice.In the next few articles I would like to share with the readers one way you can get to the top much quicker through the use of performance based pigeons plus utilizing the physical characteristics of pigeons as well. Selecting pigeons from top performance based pigeons is the main ingredient but also using a good selection process can save you years of time and money. The added use of selecting key breeders by physical characteristics if used properly can get you ahead that much faster.It is very important for the reader to see that I used and highlighted the word added.
The reason this word was highlighted is that the performance of a family has always been and will always be the number one factor in developing a winning family. If you leave the performance factor out one will never reach the top.  On the other hand I will point out that also using the physical selection process can get you to the top that much faster. One other key point, regarding time. Getting top results is very important to some but not all. For some and especially for those flyers that are very competitive and need to win, some will not keep up the good fight if winning does not come in a timely manner. I believe this is one of the reasons some flyers prefer another mans opinion once in a while regarding their birds.

Selecting breeders ( The beginning )
My brother and I had common pigeons from a very early age. Not until moving to California at the age of 17 did I have the opportunity to get my first racing pigeons. In 1978 after having settled down with a good job and my own home, the timing was now right to advance to the next level and start racing. Grasping the racing part came much easier at first than trying to tell one pigeon from the other. The need to find out some answers about selection came after my second year of racing when I topped the Bay City Combine with 2300 birds. One of the best flyers at the time by the name of Jerry Trounce wanted to trade a Vernazza Janssen youngster for a youngster from my new Combine winner.
After arriving at Jerry's home in Napa he brought out 2 young birds from proven Vernazza breeders that I could select from. Being a new comer to the game they both looked great  but at the time I didn't have a clue on which bird to pick. After coming home with one of the two birds I quickly realized I had a lot to learn. Why can two pigeons look the same and come from a highly performance family but one can possibly turn out to breed winner after winner and the nest mate breed nothing.  For the next 10 years I read every book on racing pigeons I could get my hands on. Watched all the video tapes and went to every seminar that was within driving distance. Several nights I would stay up to 1 or 2  in the morning searching for answers.
Every chance I could get I would ask to handle the winner but more important their parents. As I was digging for answers what really kept me going  was the mystery of this whole thing. Why will some world class pigeons breed their like while others will not. Then to complicate things further it could be a full brother or sister of the World Champion with a poor race record that turns out to be the best breeder. To me there was no mystery in selecting racers because the race basket will bring the cream to the top each and every time. But selecting breeders was a different story.

All Winners will not breed their like. We have heard in more cases than one that the champion racer in fact bred nothing while the unproven bird from the same pair turned out to be the breeder.  Campbell Strange had many top breeders but also had 2 World Class birds that didn't prove out to breed their like.  One of the very best racing hens ever the Van Morrsel hen was bred by Piet Valk from  " Libera " 86 NL 785275   The hen in fact was given to Piet as a gift. Piet told me in conversation that he was at a friends house one day  and the owner was ready to put this hen down because she never scored as a youngster and did nothing as a yearling, she was always late. Piet liked the looks of this Janssen hen and asked if he could have her to breed from. The rest is history.  In My own loft back in 1983 I bred and race a bird I called " Domino ".

This Cock as a yearling placed either 1st or 2nd in every race he was entered. That year in the highest level of competition 101 lofts and over against up to 2282 birds a race he Won 1st Ace pigeon of all Ca. with the highest points ever in the history of California at the time. Normally the No.1 Ace Pigeon in years past had about 300 to 350 points. In his case he had 458 points. The points were so much higher than normal that at first they thought they made a mistake in calculating the points. Anyway I bred from this cock for 6 years and he never passed on the winning genes.  I even tried skip generation several times ,still nothing. At that time I had come up with some treats or tools that seemed to be working in picking out breeders. So the first time I put my grading to the test was when I picked out a full sister of " Domino " . She was never raced and placed directly into the stock loft.   In a 2 year period she bred 2 Hall Of Fame Winners. In no way did I have all the answers yet but I felt I was getting closer and on the right track.  To build on my knowledge of grading pigeons I had every grader that came in our area go through a few of my birds.  In 1989 Bill Hatcher and myself took a few birds to Brad Lavern to grade.  At that time I had finalized the treats or tools that were important for me and called them my 6 Common Denominators. Before taking the birds to Brad, for my own records I picked out 2 birds that I felt had everything to be top breeders using my 6 Common Denominators.

Brad Graded the birds with some scoring World Class, others not so good. I still have the paper work on the 2 birds that I felt were my future breeders. The one bird a BB hen 87 TCH 1753  Brad's comments on her were, A Racer not a breeder.  The other bird a young cock and a direct son of 87 TCH 1753 His comments :  Don't breed, no muscle. In later years I named the 1753 Hen" Fools Gold "because not one but several graders all missed her as a good breeder. Her son in his first year  bred  My Three Sisters.  Two of the three hens each won a 1st Bay City Combine and all 3 turned out to be great breeders. We have over  9 generation of winners down from her and she was also the  Gr. Mother of my 1st ever No.1 Ace pigeon of All America named " Young Cleopatra "   Don't get me wrong Brad was a well respected grader and had a big following. In this case he was looking for different treats that were important to him and not some of the treats that I was using. For example Brad never opened the beak of the pigeons he graded were I strongly feel that 100% of all top breeders have great throats. In the years 91-92-93 I put my grading skills to the test. Remember we are first using performance.
So doing my home work I selected the Verbruggen family as one of my first base families. Verbruggen himself had a great race record but even more important lofts all over Europe were scoring with his blood line.  Verbruggen himself purchased nothing but the best performance birds Belgium had at the time. Just to name a few Belgium's 1974 No.1 Ace pigeon of all Belgium " De AS " then " De Geschifte " Possible the best racer Hofkens ever had. At Meulemans total auction he purchased" De Witneus " the second highest bird in the sale. Wanting only the best my game plan presented to Verbruggen was to have him put 2 youngsters aside for me to handle from every one of his top pairs.  Using my 6 Common Denominator grading system I picked out 23 birds from a total of 60 birds that first year. Over the next 2 years I hand selected more key youngsters from the pairs that weren't to my liking the year before.  We all know that just because it is the best pair that all youngster will not be the same. As you can see I did not spend tens of thousand of dollars for one proven bird but rather picked out the  best from the key pairs. By doing this I felt I got more for my money. It also saved me years of time because right from the start these birds bred winners.

My " La Tasha "   Hen was bred from the Imports the first year. She was the only bird that we are aware of that won 3 x 1st Nr. Ca. Comb. in one year plus 8th best pigeon of all America. She in turn bred the 2nd Ace pigeon of all America the next year. As you can see I do not believe that you need to wait for the birds to get acclimated. Good breeders will prove themselves the first year.  90% of the Verbruggens that I picked out over that 3 year period bred winners or Hall Of fame Winners. Three of the birds " De Gommaire " De Fighter and the  " Blue Kadet " turned out to be in a class of their own with well over 200 first prizes plus countless hall of fame winners bred down from them alone. A daughter of our " De Fighter Bred Bill Nesler's best bird ever TCH 0961 BB cock. All in one year  this fantastic cock was entered in all 10 races from 100m to 600m  Won 7 x 1st club 3 x 1st Comb. up to 1700p  In the last 600m race from two combines releasing together he was the only day bird.  One of our newer Champions down from the Verbruggens is our  03 Bieche 3106 " Born to Win "'. As a 2 year old he won 1st 2005 Ace pigeon of all America Digest awards in his class with 1st. 2169 p  5th 2394 p 7th 725p 11th 2108 pigeons. The picture of him is also included with the article.  His full brother " New Horizon " 07 Bieche 7176 Won 1st. 1720 as a y/b then 1sr 1156p  1st 1165p as a yearling. Rather then just relying on performance we have come a long way by also using our selection process to pick out future breeders for ourselves and our clients around the world. Piet De Weerd has done the same in years past. First of all he would never select a bird for a client unless it came from a top performance family.

For this reason Piet De Weerd or any other reputable selector would never go to Lier, the so called pigeon super market and pick out a breeder for a client. Why? because you will never find a top performance loft selling his pigeons during the Lier market. For example  Hank Vernaszza Janssen's that Piet selected for him came from V.D. Flaes.  At the time he had some of the very best  record Janssens of all Holland and was also well known for his Red Fox Janssens.  Campbell Strange's Ace Pigeon " Blue Van Lier "also came from V.D. Flaes but in this case not selected by Piet De Weerd.    In the next article or articles I will cover some added details that are important in our selection of breeders.  Over the last 20 to 30 years our pigeon sport has gone through several positive changes. Racing, Breeding Health products etc.  To assume there is no better system of selecting breeders today is simply crazy.
With this mind set you may as well go out and buy a black and white TV today, thinking you just purchased the top of the line. As you can see I strongly believe in also using our selection process to pick out key breeders.