Gerard & Bas VERKERK, Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
Gerard and bas Verkerk in front of their racing loft.
Twelve seasons in a row, they belong to the national and world top! No loft in the world performed better on 100 to 700 km races the past decennium! We are talking about the champion formation Gerard and Bas Verkerk from Alphen aan den Rijn. Their yearly achievements verge on the incredible. With great care and devotion, a line of pigeons was formed here, capable of tearing at program races for 24 weeks every year. Starting from 1997, they won 203 clear first prizes against 2,218 pigeons! As racers and breeders, they brought at least 7 Olympiade pigeons in the sports league for the Netherlands, and not without proud they can tell us they're still the owners of this pigeons! At the eve of the new season 2007, we met with this cordial father and son combination, born with a pigeon in their harts.
Forming the pedigree
It all started 20 years ago with the purchase of pigeons belonging to three celebrities from those days, the De Wit brothers from Koudekerk aan den Rijn, Jan Ouwerkerk from Lekkerkerk and the Vroomen brothers from Geverik. The De Wit brothers dispose of an exquisite line of Janssen and Klak pigeons, Jan Ouwerkerk had a powerful line of '46 of Verbart' offspring and the Vroomen brothers formed their line out of a few Limburg top lofts, amongst others the Visscher brothers loft. Important main pigeons for both father and son Verkerk were De Reimsdoffer' of the de Wit brothers, De Midfondkampioen' of Jan Ouwerkerk and De Gouden Kweekduif' of the Vroomen brothers. If you were to look up the last six or seven generations of the present day top pigeons pedigree, you would find the names of these three main pigeons many times. Twenty years later there is still blood of the De Wit brothers, Jan Ouwerkerk en the Vroomen brothers running through the veins of the colony. Of course, Gerard and Bas are also looking for reinforcements for their loft, and good crossbreeding material. When purchasing new material, it is not important that the line suites with the own base pigeons, but merely the top pigeons that perform at the time are taken into consideration. Their young are being bought, and usually put in the breeding loft first to crossbreed them with the old' line. Due to their racing method, to which we will come back later, the offspring has to show good results within two years, otherwise it's the end of the line for them! Once in a while, newly purchased pigeons are being raced immediately. As in 2007 they get going with four of Jan Ouwerkerk's yearlings, direct descendants of his top pigeons de 83' and de 84'. Gerard en Bas' breeding loft consists of 43 breeding couples, housed partly in a loft in the garage and partly in a small loft in front of the garage. Both lofts are connected to each other. The breeding couples are being paired off to another partner every round. Sometimes there is unconscious family breeding, but the main point is to pair off good to good'. I believe this colony's great strength is the superior quality of their breeding loft. Every top flyer is mostly brought to the breeding loft by the age of three. The experience here is that good flying pigeons are often good breeders as well. Bas' opinion: They have proven their intelligence by returning home quickly and have the strength to cope with our demanding flying system two years in a row. Not one single national top pigeon or Olympiade pigeon is sold. At this moment, 32 different pigeons, that have won one or more national top ten titles, are housed in the breeding loft. And I didn't count the Teletext pigeons and other first prize winners! Moreover, top pigeons are being pampered here until their dead. Over 20 old pigeons, that are no longer capable of breeding or laying eggs, are housed at an ex-fancier friend in Alphen aan den Rijn. Every day these elderly' as Bas calls them, are being pampered by father Gerard. This is a shining example of how these champions treat their animals with respect.
Using every inch of space
The space behind the house at the Paddestoelweg' is very limited. This whole area has almost completely been used and built over with lofts. They are being mocked with all kinds of stories about overpopulation, we can regularly read about. An example: At this moment 118 old flying pigeons are housed in a flying loft of 5 meters long and 2 meters 40 deep. The pigeons aren't wild; you have to be very careful in order not to step on one of them. In the loft, nest boxes are hanging everywhere and a cosy rush reigns there. This year, there are some extra yearlings and therefore small boxes have been hammered on the wall. During the season, 50 flying cocks will be housed here and the hens will be put in a small, low-ceilinged loft with a corrugated boards roof and a partially open front. In the other half of this loft, a second group of youngsters will be accommodated. The first youngsters group is located at the right side of the flying loft. I have already told you where the breeders are housed. Because of the great number of pigeons, the lofts are cleaned carefully two times a day, 365 days a year!
National and international performance list 2006
Olympiade pigeons NUMBER 7 with Olympic Spongebob'
National competition The Best of the Best': 3rd emperor of the Netherlands The Best of the Best'
2nd National Ace Pigeon All-Round with Taylor'
4th National Ace Pigeon All-Round with Benji' 5th National Ace Pigeon All-Round with Oprah'
9th National Ace Pigeon All-Round with Olympic Spongebob'
10th National Ace Pigeon > 500 km with Benji'
10th National Ace Pigeon One Day Long Distance with Taylor'
2nd National Ace Pigeon Yearling with Taylor'
6th National Ace Pigeon Yearling with Benji'
The NL 04-2050373 Olympic Spongebob'. Represented the Netherlands in 2007 at the Olympiade in the Sports League. Flew amongst others 1st Blois against 20,755 competitors and 1st Peronne against 6,017 competitors in 2005. In 2006 it won 8 prizes 1:100, such as 1st Chantilly against 6,762, 2nd Strombeek against 6,205 (at the same time as Taylor) and 2nd Orleans against 1,710 competitors (again at the same time as Taylor). Olympic Spongebob' was in 2006 also 9th National Ace Pigeon All-round in The Best of the Best'.
National Competition WHZB
: 2nd Best Fancier of the Netherlands with an average of 18 pigeons 3rd Best Hen with Taylor' 4th Best Hen with Oprah' 5th Best Hen with Estelle' 10th Best Cock with Gerelly' 10th Overall List of Rankings One Day Long Distance In 2006 only yearlings and two year old pigeons were raced!
Preparing the pigeons
We let Bas Verkerk talk more about this: First of all, let me get straight that our system hasn't been the same for two years in a row since 1999. Every year, our system has been adjusted and this proves a good pigeon isn't bothered by changes. In 2005, young pigeons were darkened and raced about 12 times up to 450 km. Racing the old pigeons is the most important for us however. In winter, the pigeons come out two to three times a week and in this period they get a paratyphoid course of treatment. All flying and breeding pigeons were paired off right before Christmas. The flying pigeons brought up the first round of breeders. When the young were 18 days old, the hens moved to the aviary, from where they were raced as well. The cocks took care of the young for another week. Starting from February, the pigeons were on widowhood. The fact is, we don't pair off for the second time. A week before the first race, the cocks and hens were each trained separately two times for a distance of 5 km. The cocks and hens train for 50 minutes in the morning and one hour and a half in the afternoon. The flaps are closed and the pigeons train spontaneously at these given times. Before the flight, the cocks and hens don't get to see each other. The old pigeons were taken away alone during the week after a bad race. After a test race, they briefly get to see their hen again to tone up their self esteem. At the after season though, the old pigeons were taken away during the week. Moreover, the pigeons are lightened and darkened to keep them in shape, since our pigeons are raced on complete widowhood at the after season. No partners are staying home in our loft and EVERYTHING is basketted on a weekly basis. During the last after season race, our pigeons were put on widowhood for SEVEN MONTHS! So that is a few speed races to start with, then middle long distance once every week (350 km) and one-day long distance (600 km). After that, they completed 5 more after season races. That's 23 to 24 weeks in a normal season. In one year, the pigeons fly 8,000 kilometres! Our pigeons fly the same amount of kilometres/races in two years as the other fanciers make their pigeons fly in four. This system's advantage is that young pigeons, that are kept in the breeding loft as well, have already proven themselves. After season 2006, our breeding loft was completed with pigeons such as Taylor', Olympic Sponge Bob', Oprah', Estelle', Inspiration' and others. Taylor is only a yearling and already in the breeding loft? Indeed, but we also did this with our international Ace and Olympiade pigeons Evolution', Olympic Sogno' and Olympic Unbelievable'. Generally speaking, pigeons are two years old when you are considered good enough for the breeding loft.
Nutrition and medical support
Gerard and Bas are asked about this the most. What do you give them?!' and then they're not referring to the food, but to medication and nutritional supplements, for the majority of fanciers still believes that success comes from a jar. A common fallacy, in the first place it's all about good pigeons! Bas and Gerard's pigeons get four kinds of mixtures, the whole year through: Beyers, Mariman, Versel Laga and Versele Laga Plus. If necessary, the feed is completed with Zoontjens and purification. They also get supplements of seed treats, Tovo, P40 and peanuts. The hens are given the same food as the cocks, provided that they are fed on feel. The cocks get a full bowl of feed in their nest box. The leftovers are taken away every night after 9. Medically, vet Henk de Weerd keeps a finger on the pulse. In winter, the pigeons are being treated against paratyphoid and vaccinated against paramixo and smallpox. They get a treatment against yellow fever when sitting on the nest. During the season, there are treated once every four weeks against yellow fever. For the treatment, BS is alternated with Belgamix. The pigeons are only treated against Swollen Head Syndrome or other diseases after consulting Henk de Weerd in Breda. In 2006 Dr. Brokamp from Boppard gave the pigeons, besides from Forte, Vita by Travipharma on a probiotic basis. Taking care of such a huge colony as the one of father and son Verkerk is no picnic. Especially for Bas it has become a full time job. As long as the results are good, Gerard and Bas keep their motivation. However, even these toppers have to do with doubts and disappointments every once in a while, especially when a team of young pigeons you've worked for an entire year, gets lost in a race. Moreover, they experience the pressure of having to perform. All eyes are focussed on them and not everyone wishes them success. Though, they occasionally do realize they are privileged as top breeders. I admire fanciers who often perform badly, have to cope with ill pigeons, loose a lot of youngsters etc. You have to be a true fancier to keep on going', says Bas. The front of the breeding loft The flying loft, with on the left the old flying pigeons and the first group of young pigeons on the right.
A few beautiful performances 2006
10-06 Ablis 451 km 6,990 c. 1,3,7,8,12,13,21,23,25 etc. 83/47
17-06 Tours 603 km 631 c. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,14,15,16,18 etc. 67/43
01-07 Orleans Saran 509 km 1,710 c. 1,2,4,6,12,15,16,19,21,22,23,27 etc. 67/42
15-07 Blois 562 km 1,759 c. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,11,12,16,22,24 etc. 64/46
05-08 Chantilly 364 km 6,762 c. 1,2,4,5,7,8,14,15,18,25,27,28 etc. 57/50
19-08 Duffel 118 km 6,629 c. 2,3,4,5,6, 7,10,11,14,17,18,19 etc. 64/60
09-09 Peronne 276 km 1,811 c. 1,3,4,6,7,11,12,13,14,15,17,18,19 etc. 59/57
Notice the beautiful series and high prize percentages! In 2006 they won 17 clear first prizes against an average of 3,010 pigeons!
The season 2007
This year, Gerard and Bas race with a slightly bigger team of old pigeons than usual, due to the fact that they have so many inexperienced yearlings. Last year they didn't darken the young and they had a lot of problems with their youngsters. They also experienced that young pigeons that are shedding their feathers, get lost quickly on races of more than 300 km. The expectation is that a few yearlings will stay behind in the beginning. They are also planning on darkening the young pigeons again this year. At this moment, 115 have been weaned off and a small group will be added that probably will only be able to come along on the second tour. Of course, new developments in pigeon racing interest the Verkerk brothers. They do stay positive, for they believe negative rubbish is useless. Bas continues: If we stopped holding on to the gold old days, pigeon racing would become far more attractive. For example, if you were be able to send the arrival times directly to Compuclub via a modem, you would get a beautiful view on the race's development, while you're waiting for your pigeons. Wonderful, isn't it? That way, you immediatelly know where you stand. The charm of pigeon sports is being widened with a piece of contemporary technology! On the other hand, we shouldn't go as far as that Chinese invention of manipulating a pigeon in its flight path or the fact that you can see where your pigeon is located during the race. What would be the consequences of this at overnight races for example! Another positive example is the flight program 2007 by Division 5, providing a race up to 500 km every week for speed and middle long distance racers and a weekly race of 300 to 700 km for program racers. All's said and done Gerard and Bas feel good about themselves. The breeding has gone well; the racing team is in its training rhythm. They already train about one hour and a half every day without making much of an effort.
07.04.2007 Meer, 73 km, 1.434 p. 2,3,4,6,7,9,11,12,13,15,17,18,19, etc --- 73/109
19.05.2007 Ablis, 451 km, 20.007 p. 1,8,14,18,22,39,77,78,104,115, etc. --- 78/102
07.07.2007 Pommeroeul, 200 km, 2.592 p. 4,5,7,8,9,26,28,29,44,47, etc. --- 57/83 Also 4th,5th,7th,8th and 9th fastest 15.137 p.
14.07.2007 Mariembourg, 229 km, 12.909 p. 5,7,11,12,13,19,20,21,28,etc. --- 62/83
21.07.2007 Bouillon, 260 km, 6.517 p. 1,2,4,etc. --- 7/9
21.07.2007 Bouillon (youngsters), 260 km, 13.710 p. S.Nat/ NPO-west : 3,5,7,8,30,31,35,etc. --- 31/43
28.07.2007 Vierzon, 580 km, 2.102 p. 3,10,14,37,42, etc. --- 14/25 10th NPO 3.894 p.
18.08.2007 Duffel, 118 km, 3.152 p. 3,4,6,7,9,16,19,21,22,23,25,28,29,30, etc. --- 59/84 where of 49/52 old birds
01.09.2007 Pommeroeul, 200 km, 2.194 p. 1,3,4,6,11,12,15,16,17,23,24,25,26,28,29, etc. --- 107/133
08.09.2007 Peronne, 276 km, 4.876 p. 1,2,3,6,11,13,14,15,16,17,18,24,25,26,27,etc. --- 97/136
All prizes in the first 20 % (1 in 5) !!
Just a bit and they're off.
Gerard and Bas can't wait for the season to start either, especially with this beautiful spring weather. We're going keep you posted of their performances as well this year. Gerard and Bas, congratulations on your pigeon's great achievements!
Using every inch of space, a couple of yearlings in a mini nest box!
This little yearling hen that is living in a mini nest box proved to be the best pigeon in the Verkerk loft after 6 weeks. Raced amongst others: Duffel 1st -591 c (5th -2207c)
Strombeek 2nd -576 d (2nd 2257c)
Peronne 1st -638 d (7th -2346 c)