Deon du Toit’s dominance of the 2014 Kalahari Pigeon Federation, his first racing season there, was so complete that although he entered only 11 of the 18 races, he was still Federation champion by a large margin.
Deon grew up in the Koue Bokkeveld in the Western Cape. His interest in pigeons started when one of his workers brought him a stray pigeon. To look after it, he built a small loft and gradually added more birds.
“I developed a love for pigeons and vowed that, one day, I’d race and breed pigeons,” he recalls. “Well, 35 years later, in 2011, when I moved to Colesberg in the Northern Cape, that dream became a reality. Bertus Nel invited me to join him in waiting for his pigeons to arrive from a race. After that, I was hooked.”
The following year, Deon moved to Kathu in the Northern Cape. It was here, in March of that year, that he built his loft and took part in five South Route races with the NOK Union, with birds bred by Bertus Nel, Dr Gavin Rous and Paul Viljoen.
“As a complete novice, it was daunting to race against pigeon fanciers such as Gavin, his brother Trevor, and Paul Viljoen – all multiple NOK Union Champions!” recalls Deon.
He need not have been concerned. In race four from Laingsburg (494km), his yearlings were the first seven birds home. In the open section, he had seven of the eight first birds home, missing out only on second place. Race five from Touwsrivier (567km) was also a good one for Deon and his birds came in first, second and third.
“I was lucky to start with very good pigeons,” says Deon. “About 90% of my birds are Vandenabeeles, descendants of two of the greatest racers ever, Gaby Vandenabeele’s Wittenbuik and Bliksem.”
Club members can basket 24 pigeons per team (12 yearlings and 12 opens). “I prefer to test my pigeons thoroughly and I enter two teams – 48 pigeons per race. I start the racing season with 80 birds,” explains Deon. “Once my birds can circle for an hour or longer, I start off with a 20km toss and gradually increase the distance so that I end up with a toss from the first race point the weekend before the first race.
“Once the racing season starts, I toss twice per week to a maximum of 60km to 80km. The other days, I circle the birds once a day for an hour. I don’t chase my birds – they must fly out of their own free will.
“I believe the best way to test your pigeons is to race them every race,” says Deon. “Therefore I race all my birds every weekend for 12 consecutive races.
I specifically bought pigeons that were tested and bred to do this from Bertus and Gavin. They selected their birds according to a unique racing system in Colesberg, where they raced all their birds every weekend against a headwind. This system resulted in excellent selection.
“For a novice like me it’s not easy to select the best birds for every race, but racing almost all my birds every weekend makes it a bit easier.”
Deon mainly looks at the performances of the birds in the previous weekend and the training sessions during the week.
The feeding of one’s birds is crucial, believes Deon. “I use a mixture with a high fat percentage,” he says. “This year I’ll be using a new mixture from Vanrobeys in Belgium. I believe the quality of their feed is excellent.”
On Saturday evening and Sunday morning the feed is supplemented with Rohnfried BT Amin and Rohnfried Biergist. On Sundays and Mondays they are given Rohnfried Avidress Plus in the drinkers and Rohnfried Sedochol over their feed, while on Tuesdays and Wednesdays they receive Rohnfried Atemfrei and Rohnfried Jungtierpulver over the feed and Rohnfried Blitzform in the drinkers. On Thursdays it’s clean water and feed.