A teacher and cattle farmer found his passion for pigeon racing late in life and today is reaping the rewards of starting out with an extraordinary gene pool.
George Ehlers is a passionate teacher at the Laerskool Voorwaarts. Despite farming with Brahman cattle for more than 25 years, something in his busy life was still missing. Then the feathered world of racing pigeons caught his attention.
George joined the Golden Reef Pigeon Association as a non-flyer member in 2000. In 2002, he teamed up with fellow clubmate Koos Mostert and they collected their fair share of trophies. George then decided it was time to practise more competitively from his own loft. In his area, fanciers qualified for dual membership within the ranks of the different mother organisations. In 2008, George became a member of the Meyerton Pigeon Union.
A dedicated “pigeon family” is unbeatable. George says his wife Yvette is his loft manager. She loft trains and feeds the pigeons while he’s at work. Their daughter, Yvette Jr, is studying at Oxford in the UK, but their son George Jr also has a passion for pigeons and was twice crowned the National Youth Show Champion.
George’s four mentors are pigeon fanciers Delvin Vinnicombe, Frans Maritz, Koos Mostert and Nic Muller. When things go wrong, he contacts them first for advice.
The ultimate focus of most pigeon fanciers is to conquer the Champion Points League averages. But it’s difficult, because it requires a lot of time and effort and you can’t afford to miss out on a top score in just about all the events of the season. You must also be able to score equally well in the short, middle and long distances. Most fanciers opt to specialise at either the short or the longer distances. George first had to learn what his pigeons were capable of.
Secrets of the Ehlers loft
To keep the birds fit, he’s a firm believer of not allowing the loft temperature to fluctuate too much. His floors are covered with straw for warmth in winter while extractor fans rid the loft of stale air.
George has focused on the motivation of key individuals in a medium-sized racing team to find his champion racers. To give all the birds a fair chance, he road-trains them before the racing season begins for 30km to 50km in various directions.
Only two pigeons are released at minute intervals to force them to think on their own. He wants to stimulate their natural homing faculties and bring to the fore an extraordinary sharpness of mind. This method creates more leaders and instills confidence into the flock so they can fly at the front without fear.
George believes in the goodness of oil-containing seeds like sunflower (shelled and dehusked), linseed, etc. In the mornings, the pigeons are fed shelled sunflower.
At lunch a mix is given daily which contains fine seeds, dehusked sunflower and a mixture of peas. Dinner is an ultra-high protein feed that George mixes himself.
The right medication
Routine treatment is a must in the Ehlers lofts, but is done sparingly and according to prescription. Attention is given to rid the pigeons of respiratory ailments, pigeon malaria, paramyxo, pigeon pox, coccidiosis, worms and bacterial infections. “It’s also important to keep the liver and kidneys clean,” George says. Medication is alternated to prevent bacteria resistance. A favourite supplement in his loft is Bedgen 40.
Cultivating a top gene pool
George claims the key ingredient to his success is that he started out with an extraordinary gene pool from a winning family. His experience with inbreeding and line breeding his Brahmans helped him preserve the winning factor in his racing pigeons.
George and his mentor use single breeding pens, which ensures they know without a doubt the young are from a specific pair.
The Ehlers pigeons were obtained from Delvin Vinnicombe and Nic Muller, and originated primarily from the famous Janssens brothers in Belgium. They are true-to-type, medium-sized, fully muscled specimens with extraordinary feather quality and perfectly balanced bodies.
The Ehlers gene pool produced a five-time winner hen which then produced top-scoring pigeons into the third generation – a Gauteng Combine Derby Winner from Hanover named Mandjie, and Lance Armstrong, a superior all-round racer at various velocities and distances.
In a tough race event for yearlings from Colesberg last season, George scored seven positions in the first 25 in the Meyerton Pigeon Union.
E-mail Thomas Smit at [email protected] or call (011) 680 4778. |fw