BELGIUM & HOLLAND LOFT VISITS - PART 1
For many years now my good friend, Brian Goodwin, has be threaten to arrange some Continental loft visits for us to enjoy and finally the month of February saw us get on the Euro Tunnel train to kick off a two day pigeon trip of Belgium and Holland. The weather was freezing and to beat the traffic hold ups we caught the 03.00hrs train out of Dover. Brian has been commuting to the Continent and purchased the very best racing pigeons available in Belgium and Holland for the past 30 years, so he was the best man to arrange the trip. He is not a guy who messes around and in past years has purchase whole rounds of youngsters from the very top loft on the Continent, including Willy Thas, which have produced several Federation and Combine winners in recent seasons. Through the years he have been well known for racing the direct Emiel Deweerdt pigeons with brilliant success, but in recent seasons Brian has been over to Belgium and brought back several new strains, which have also performed very well. Our good mates, Darren Watson and Peter ‘Fat Wallet’ Mercer, came along for the trip and I must say they were a great laugh and their good company made the two days extra special. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been over the English Channel to Belgium and Holland, but have never visited pigeon lofts out there, apart from spending two days at the ‘Ponderosa’ in Holland, with Hans Eijerkamp and his family in the mid 1990’s.
Schoors & De Waele of Maldegem – Adegem
Our first loft visit was Alex Schoors and Maurice Maldegem in Belgium and it seemed like we arrived at Alex’s home in the middle of the night, but I think it was about 05.45hrs. It was very dark and freezing cold! On our arrival we found Alex in the family pet shop sited at the back of the property and I must say it was very impressive, being housed in a ware house type building, and selling all pet requirements, including every thing for the pigeon fancier. Alex sells every thing, from rat poison through to ETS systems! Before viewing the pigeons we enjoyed a Belgium breakfast with the Schoors family in their home and it was a great pleasure meeting Alex’s wife and mother.
Alex has been in pigeons since 1978, with his father, Odiel, being a fancier since the end of the Second World War in the 1940’s and has won many premier prizes through the years. Alex and Maurice’s top prize was when they were General Champions of Belgium in 2003 and have been the most consistent premier loft in the region over the last 15 years. They have recorded four times general local champion (14 villages) and are the middle and long distance champions in their local club. The partners like racing from 350 miles through to Barcelona and Alex says, his dream is to win major races on the extreme long distance. They have flown all the International races over the last three years and have been very successful, with premier prizes from Pau, Perpignan and Barcelona.
Too say the Schoors & Maldegem loft set up was brilliant would be an under statement, with in consisting of several massive lofts and stock aviaries. The main racing loft is a brick built double decker and the racing birds are trapped into a full length corridor through ‘sputnik’ type traps. All the lofts are self built and have Pan tiled roofs for good ventilation, and are cleaned out daily. The partners race their old family built on pigeons obtained from top Belgium fanciers in the 1960’s and several modern families including the Van Loon and Jan Aarden bloodlines. Alex and Maurice race cocks on the classic widowhood system and 27 natural hens, which get one race each season from Pau or St. Vincent, sent on eggs. The widowhood cocks for the 500 km races are paired up at the end of November, with the stock birds, and are allowed to rear a pair of youngsters before going on the system. The long distance racing cocks are mated at the end of December and are split after sitting ten days on their eggs, so all widowers are parted at the same time. The widowhood pigeons are repaired at the beginning of April for about five days before going fully on the system for racing. The widowhood cocks are not shown the hens for the first few races in April, but from May until the end of the season the cocks see their mates for a few minuets on marking night. All the racers get their hens for a while on their return from the race and in the case of the long distance this could be over night. The old birds are broken down during the week on ‘Super Diet’ mixture. Alex told me the partners are not interested in the short old bird races in April, but give them six good training tosses and then start them with a 300 km race in May.
The stock loft is made up with 36 pairs, 12 pairs for 500 km and 24 pairs for long distance, with every thing in these sections being proven breeders. Alex says when they bring in a new breeder, he likes it to be inbred to a champion and he hates big pigeons. He also maintains handling and good feather is important when selecting breeders. Schoors & De Waele breed 200 young birds every season, but only race 50, which are put on the dark system from the end of March until mid June and then are put on the light system until the end of the racing season. The young bird racers are paired up and race to eggs, and small youngsters. Alex says this system is excellent to achieve good results in the four young bird National races, but these 50 birds are finished after being on the system and are disregarded at the end of the season. The other 150 young birds are worked with the long term in mind, being trained up to 300 km. and are fed on the Belgium ‘Sport’ mixture, with added maize.
As I’ve previously stated the Schoors’ pet warehouse sold every thing for the pigeon fancier and I would say it is the best pigeon suppliers I have seen in time in the sport. I notes their wooden nest boxes and ‘sputniks’ were very good quality and very cheap. They sell all the premier pigeon corns and the local fanciers were in their buying their feeding very early that morning, and the place got quite crowded. Darren and ‘Fat Wallet’ had Brian’s car boot full of cheap pigeon products when we left the Schoors driveway for the Dutch border. I would like to thank the Schoors family for their wonderful hospitality and congratulate Alex and Maurice on their excellent pigeons and lofts; they are a credit to them. This was my first ever loft visit in Belgium and I was lucky enough to start with the best! Next week we will be moving into Holland and looking at the fantastic pigeons of Ronald and Annie Heesen of Laren, plus several other premier Dutch racers. I can be contacted for any comment on telephone number: 01372 463480. See yer!
TEXT & PHOTO BY KEITH MOTT