Velm: The season 2016 for the youngsters had a difficult start…we don’t have to spell it out for you…the weather gods have shown their ‘bad character’ enough now the last few weeks…it’s time that they show their ‘sunny carts’ on the table !

Due to the bad weather the preparation flights for the youngsters fell literally into the water. Many amongst us have been careful but the real young pigeon specialists took the ‘good moments’ to train their team well. One of the true young pigeon specialists is without a doubt Kobe Herbots, but you can read the name Raf with it as well. Son Kobe and father Raf, assisted by carer Jef, have played the key rol in the movie of the national races over the last few seasons. Off course they have to have the wind in their favour to make it to the national top but if the wind heads from the West, you will never be far off when putting Kobe Herbots at top of your favourites list.

Curious as we are we took are questionnaire and headed towards Velm. Velm, pronounced as ‘Fallem’ in the local dialect, is found in the shadow of the better known St.Truiden. We found Raf…luckily he could – as a very busy vet – make himself available for us in between two consults.



Raf, is it true that it was Kobe that built the first loft in the garden?

That’s correct…as you know I’m one of the links at the tandem Herbots Gebroeders at Halle-Booienhoven, but it was indeed Kobe that started off with pigeons here in the Attenhovenstraat. It must have been the year 2012 or 2013 that he started to make some space in the garage to build a pigeon loft. Off course, I wasn’t against the initiative he took by building the small loft. To be honest…I already saw that Kobe had a good ‘going around’ with the pigeons. Also during his holiday job at Uncle Jo and Aunt Miet grandfather Filip saw that Kobe had the right ‘pigeon handling’ in his fingers. In 2014 the current loft was build…and the pigeon germ did his job in our family. Luckily we could count onto the help of Jef Reynaerts. Jef takes care of the pigeons in the morning and in the evening Kobe and I take care of them together. Next year Kobe is heading towards the university of Gent to study for veterinarian. I will have to put in even more effort to carry out everything perfectly.

What is the base of your colony?

The first years we went to get some youngsters at friends’ lofts. These were raced and at the end of the season they headed back to the breeder or would be sold in dialogue with the breeder. The last few years we started to build up our own breeding loft, existing out of 12 breeding couples. Not a foreign legion but our strain is based onto three pillars. First of all we have our ‘own breed’. These are pigeons that achieved amazing results and earned their spot on the breeding loft. Secondly we have the line based on ‘F-16’ from Bart & Nance Van Oeckel. Different racing hens are being fertilized by this breeder and put on the breeding loft after a strict selection. And the third pillar is based on the ‘Yvan’ strain from the Herbots Gebroeders. Especially the breeding lines from ‘Yvan’ x ‘F-16’ stick as the best butter on a sandwich. These breeding lines are being enriched with pigeons from friends-fanciers like for example a half-brother of the 1st National Bourges from Veulemans-Perrileux. Even for us it is every time again a search to discover the good pigeons.

How many pigeons do you breed to race with?

Our young pigeon team 2016 was 130 heads strong at weening. After a few days the first selection is being done and also mister sparrow-hawk had about 9 on his menu. Aside that we didn’t suffer many losses as on the 28th of May all youngsters flew for the first time Momignies (107km) and when the last one disappeared in the basket we counted 107 pigeons ! After 4 times Momignies and 1 time Soissons about 98 heads looked at us when opening the pigeon loft.

A first tip…as from weening the youngsters get one coffee spoon a day of Herbo Minerals Mix and Herbo Racing Power minerals, this is very important for the development of the muscles.

Raf…please tell us the secret to avoid many losses?

Well…if there would be a fixed formula I would have noted it down strictly and given it to everybody, but unfortunately our beloved hobby isn’t exact science. … First of all you have to be lucky having pigeons with a superior base condition. Youngsters with a good base condition are less quick ill and when they are ill, they cure faster. They have that base condition or they don’t and it isn’t hidden in one or the other obscure bottle. Secondly, we train our young birds very often. Look…an overview of the different training sessions…when they were only at 25 km they already saw the inside of a basket 33 times. Indeed, after 33 times in the basket they were only at 25km! Release often on a short distance and then their up to a lot very fast. This is how they will have done – normally - 4 x 107km, 3 x 197km and 2 x middle distance before they go to Bourges National.

And…once trained well, you stop the training flights?

No…forget it…at the contrary. Once the youngsters are on the ‘game system’ you have to keep on going. As long as they race short distance they have a common training flight twice a week. Once separated (after the 1st of July) both hens as cocks are being released twice a week at 25km. This always separate…never both sexes together.

A little bird told me that you make that training schedule even harder towards the nationals?

You listened well to that bird. As from 14 days before Bourges the rhythm will be – and this during one week – increased a bit more as they have to be in the air - after their 25km training - twice a day obliged for 1,5 hour (with the flag). After this intensive training week there will be a training once a day instead of twice a day for one hour and this in combination with the 25 km flight. During this period they will get during 10 days Herbobeet (concentrated beet juice) in the drinking pot.

To have youngsters to train this intensive you have to have a perfect schedule, no?

In a matter of feeding I have full trust in the Beyers mixtures. Once the youngster go to the middle distance races weekly or have to do a national race I use underneath mixtures:
Homecoming: Galaxy Sport Energy and in the evening Galaxy sport Light
Sunday and Monday: Galaxy Sport Light
Tuesday: 50% Galaxy Sport Energy + 50% Galaxy Sport Light
Wednesday and Thursday: 100% Galaxy Sport Energy + shelled sunflower seeds Pigeons which have performed, have to recuperate very well. Recuperate means provide proteins and this happens through Recovery Plus and Tarsin. In the middle of the week the fat can be increased and therefore I use omega oil and/or Lecithin oil. The last two days before basketing MMK + Herbosol will go into the drinking pots.

And medically ?

I’ve got the big advantage of my practice. As mentioned before we also have to have the luck in having pigeons with a very good base condition. I know readers like to have ‘clear wine’ and many expect an extensive schedule. Well…I can give them this schedule but better is that they visit my website www.herbovet.com and there they can see the different and extensive schedules (race – breed – moult and vaccination schedules). The site also offers the possibility to order products online.

On my own loft the youngsters got the obliged inoculation against paramyxo and we inoculated as well against Herpes and small pocks. After weening they get a seven day cure against trichomonas and a lot of “Aqua control” (mixture of acids, minerals, trace elements, oregano and cinnamon) and ‘Herbtest’ (intestine conditioner). As long there is no worth mentioning health problems, no other products are being given.

During the season the youngster are having a weekly check-up. Every 2 to 3 weeks a Spartrix is given, before basketing without a doubt a yellow drop in the beak and at basketing a ‘Top pil’ (vitamin B) is given.

And then ‘head disease’…for this only a cure is given when necessary. According to me a lot of problems can be avoided with a good ventilation on the loft. What’s a good ventilation? My loft is based on the housing of a ‘rock pigeon’ in other words, everything closed and only the front side open. But, and note this down well, place my loft in your garden and it can be a bad loft. The ventilation of every loft must be analysed in the environment where it is standing. Avoid three things on your loft : DRAUGHT - DUST and HUMIDITY and you will be ahead a far end.

Take several pigeons in your hand every evening. When you do this, you will have a better view on your racing pigeons. You will also be able better in assessing the condition of your pigeons.
Always use 2 sets of drinking pots. When one is in use, the other one is drying out all day. This helps against tricho infections.
As a vet I’m convinced, the more the youngsters are being inoculated the more resistance they will have. Our youngsters are being inoculated against paramyxo, herpes and even twice against small pocks. This is done once with a brush and once through an injection.
The oh so feared ‘one-eye-cold’? If this virus is present, you have two choices. Or you will let it break out and you will have problems the entire season or you will try to have everything in good order as soon as possible. I advise to inoculate all pigeons with linco spectin + suanovil + catosal (also the ones who aren’t infected) and inoculate again two days later, but then only the ones who are infected. I can’t guarantee a thing, but it helps.
What to do with youngsters that won’t take off. First of all, make sure that they are 100% healthy. No tricho, no worms, nog coxi and so on…If they are healthy you have to feed them very light (low protein mixture). Be careful…if the youngster flies well but doesn’t take off yet, you don’t have to pull the alarm bell right away. With exception of this year I used to have some problems with that as well. A golden advise, when you train these kind of pigeons, be very careful !
Off course I motivate my youngsters who are going to the nationals. On Thursday (basketing day) first the hens and secondly the cocks are being released at 25km. All boxes are being put open, dark corners are being created and nest dishes are being placed. You have to know that during the week the pigeons can sit on small chapels only and when they get an extended ‘play yard’, the right ambiance is there immediately.
Our youngsters get eye drops about two or three times during the season. This with different registered drops available on the market.
Pigeons do have a biological clock. Try to create a regularity in your system. Try not to feed your pigeons at 10 in the morning on one day and at 15h in the afternoon on the next day…no…try to be as strict as possible when taking care of the pigeons.
As a vet I hear many stories…I see that almost all fanciers have different systems. All roads lead to Rome but once you have chosen a system, try to follow this as much as possible and as strict as possible. Never change a system from one day to the other.

Kobe, Raf and Jef… thank you for this extensive interview and a lot of success with the coming national races for the young pigeons !

Stefan Mertens