Off season preparation

What you do now to prepare your race team will affect its performance in the upcoming season, writes Thomas Smit.

The pigeon loft of Gauteng champion fancier Joe Strydom. Note the removable/ adjustable window mats to keep the cold wind out at night.
Photo: Thomas Smit

Be patient with your racing team in the run-up to the new season. This is the time to observe and bond with the birds in your race and stock lofts. If the birds don’t show signs of disease, don’t pump them full of pills. Stick to your routine treatments. Better health begins with paying extra attention to the overall loft conditions, proper nutrition and reducing stress levels.

Focus on building up the immune system of your pigeons. Research has shown that a young racing pigeon possesses an ‘extra boost’ of natural immunity which is maintained at a ‘biological’ high’ until the youngster is around 40 days old. Administering strong medication during this sensitive stage may destroy this immunity, making the youngster vulnerable to harmful bacteria.

Remember, seemingly healthy pigeons in the loft can be carriers of disease without showing any symptoms. Once race training commences, with the stress that entails, these disease carriers are an added danger to the entire flock. So any pigeon that looks miserable or listless or refuses to eat should be transferred to a sick bay and examined by a vet.

In fact, more and more fanciers are following the lead of Gauteng champion Harry Willson, who’s built a ‘quarantine loft’ away from his prime stock loft. New acquisitions are placed there and monitored for at least two years.

Loft hygiene
“Loft disinfection is a must and now is a good time to do it,” says experienced racing pigeon vet Dr Rob Conradie. “There won’t be a drop in form among the pigeons, as they’re not yet in training.” He recommends Virkon S. “Using a blowtorch afterwards will help dry out the loft and floor. This will also destroy worm and coccidia spores, which aren’t affected by regular disinfectants,” he adds.

According to Dr Ockert Botha, another experienced pigeon vet, the occurrence of salmonellosis among pigeons is on the increase in South Africa and Europe – and is a major cause of mortality. Carrier hens infected with Salmonella bacteria pass it on to their young. By the time symptoms show, the pigeon is often in an advanced stage of infection and thickening of the wing, leg and foot joints may have already caused permanent damage. Used as a spray, Virukill Avisafe disinfectant should kill the bacteria.

Moulting
Don’t start tough home or road training if young pigeons are moulting. Plume Plus and Pre-moult will aid the process, as will a lunch-time mix of fine seeds containing de-husked sunflower and linseed.

Contact Thomas Smit at [email protected] Please state ‘Pigeons’ in the subject line of your email.