AKA 'THE WHIRLWIND'
by Chris Gibson
I’m genuinely unsure of how to go about writing this loft report. This young man is a total sensation and wise beyond his years. I’d heard a lot about Richard but personally had only ever spoken to him briefly at shows and the like whilst in company with my friend Dave who has known Richard since he was just knee high, as Dave is good friends with Richard's dad Frank. I must admit I was very much looking forward to visiting Richard’s lofts as I believe that this young man is simply one of the best I’ve met.
The front of the race loft
Richard works full time as a manager for B&Q at their distribution centre in Worksop. His shift pattern is a week of days followed by a week of afternoons, meaning his system and routine is designed over a fortnightly period. This clearly has no detrimental effect on the birds, which is a little contradictory to the old rule of thumb that the birds' exercise periods etc have to be very much regimented during the racing season. Richard is by no means a full time pigeon man. He has a lovely wife Sarah and fantastic young son Josh, who is no stranger to the birds and often accompanies his dad in the loft. So with family commitments and working full time, the time for the birds is limited. However, what Richard lacks in time, he makes up through his dedication, enthusiasm and extreme determination to ensure he competes with the best lofts around, not just at club and fed level but at classic and National level too.
The loft accommodation can only be described as something similar to that of Dr Who’s tardis. From the front it just looks like a regular type of loft that you would see in most fanciers' back gardens being 19ft long, but it is also 19ft deep plus it has aviaries along the back meaning that effectively the loft is some three sections deep and then also behind the main loft is the breeding loft with aviary. The racing loft is a converted garage and the breeding loft is an old 10ft x 10ft converted pigsty, so expensive purpose built lofts they are most certainly not. The alterations that Richard has made to transform the old garage have made it into first class accommodation for the birds with the ventilation and use of heating and lights helping to bring the birds into super form for racing. I couldn’t help but notice that the internal design of the loft is very much similar to that of Andre Van de Weil and Jan Schreuder, more commonly known as Boscheind Fliers. I know Richard has visited these lofts before so maybe that’s where some of the inspiration has come from. I’m not sure. As mentioned above, lighting is used a fair bit particularly in the old and young hens' sections that are behind the cocks as due to being a converted garage there isn’t a great deal of light getting into those sections.
ATX heating plate above the cocks' boxes
But regardless of this, Richard prefers to use the daylight bulbs ensuring the birds have a constant bright effect. Along with the ATX heating plates on the ceiling above the birds that is set to 16 degrees and the humidity set at 60%, the lights and heating create the effect of a warm summer's day in the loft, every day of the week, ensuring the race birds are in tip top condition throughout the race calendar. On the subject of the ATX heating plates, Richard feels that the condition of his birds since introducing this Swiss-made heating has improved hugely. Frank Bristow is the UK agent for the Swiss company and I’ve got to say I was very impressed with the environment in the loft that it created. Given I was there towards the end of October, the loft just had a lovely feel to it; it just felt right. This must help the birds.
ATX controls for both the temperature and humidity
Like most successful lofts, Richard is not at all bothered about so called strains or breeds, he just wants good pigeons and has searched far and wide in order to acquire them and at great expense thanks to the help of his dad Frank.
Leen Boers - In Richard's opinion Leen Boers is the best and most forward thinking pigeon fancier ever to grace the skys of Europe. These are the main base of the stock birds which all go back to the Mirage line. The most influential bird Leen ever had was ‘Mirage’ who won against 150,000 birds winning a car. Richard has had these birds since 1999 and since then has struggled to find anything to compete against them. He says that they can consistently win from 70 miles up to 523 miles on fast or slow days, they just are top class birds.
Peter Jonker - These are the only birds Richard has found that can compete with his Boers pigeons. Naturally these have all come direct from Peter in Uitgeest, Holland. Peter was the marketing manager for the Eijerkamps and did a lot of work for the Dutch Open that they ran and is a personal friend of the Eijerkamp family. Because of this he had direct access to the best of their birds at Greenfield stud in Brummen. Peter also had top bloodlines from fanciers such as Gerrard Koopman, Heremans/Ceusters, Gaby Vandenabeele, Marijke Vink, Meerkerk Klinkenberg and Van Loon. Only sons and daughters were brought in off their very best champions and these were then all crossed in together to create a winning gene pool of top class racing machines. The main Jonker line for Richard is the “Pre Olympic” lines. Pre Olympic was bought by M&D Evans of Myrtle lofts for a huge figure from Peter’s auction on Pipa. Four direct children out of “Pre Olympic” are in Richard's breeding loft, all of which have bred exceptional birds. Such is his relationship with Peter that Richard has been over and visited him numerous times with Peter also making a trip to Worksop to visit Richard.
The Boers birds and the Jonkers are the main birds in the loft but he does like to look for the odd pigeon each year to try in the breeding loft but if they don’t breed winners within a couple of years they go, it's as simple as that.
The back of the race loft
Fanciers that have won with Richard's birds
Because of his success, Richard is no stranger to selling the odd young bird to help contribute to the cost of keeping his birds and with the success people are having with them you can see why they come back for more year after year. Fanciers winning with his bloodlines include: Steve Burditt, RPRA Award winner and 1st Open Mid Yorkshire Combine. Gary Jones 1st Barnsley Federation. M&A Sherwood 1st Woodhouse Gold ring and Gold ring Breeder Buyer. E&A Berdett 1st Breeder Buyer and 2x1st Derbyshire Federation. K. Machin 1st Great Yorkshire Amal. J&G Hartless 1st North West Combine. Jimmy Hampson 1st Southport Federation. K Hepingstall 1st Pentland Federation. Rea Bros of Aberdeen have one hen that has won 6x1st Federation. L&M Gaunt, Derbyshire 2x1st Federation with a son of “Oylimpic Bolt”. A. J. Pywell 1st Derbyshire Federation. Richard also bred last year’s region sprint award winner for his good friend Ashley at Shirebrook. As well as selling a few birds Richard can be commended for the generosity he showed to his dad’s old friend Dave Bilton who accompanied me on my visit. Dave was looking at the old cocks in their aviary and jokingly said, “I’ll take that one there, he’s a grand cock”. Richard’s reply was, “You can have him Dave” and he promptly went and got the cock for us to look at before placing him in a box for Dave. And I must say he was a beautiful cheq cock who not only looked the part but was a multiple winner on the road too, from the best Peter Jonker lines. Nice one Rich.
Entrence for the hens into the cocks
As mentioned above, Richard works a week of days then a week of afters meaning that one week the birds are exercised in the morning and the week after in the afternoon. Obviously feed is adjusted to suit; this applies to both old and young birds.
Old Birds. The last few seasons Richard has raced 15 cocks and 30 hens, however there will be no cocks raced at all in 2013 as the system he flies clearly favours the hens so all the cocks will remain at home while the 30 hens will be the ones doing all the racing. To cut his race team from 45 to 30 clearly demonstrates Richards confidence in his hens to perform. The first set of 15 hens will be paired to the cocks early to mid December (the same time as the stock). These are allowed to lay and sit for a week or so before they are removed to make way for the second set of hens that are then paired to the cocks and allowed to rear a round of young. As you can imagine, the motivation for the first set of hens has already begun. After the babies are weaned all the hens are moved to the hens' section which is to the back of the cocks. The hens spend 90% of the day out in the aviaries at the back of the loft and are moved through to them at 5am before Richard goes to work on a day shift. This is where all the birds exit the loft for exercise before entering via the traps on the front. Obviously with two hens motivated to one box the hens trap like bullets before fighting for a minute or two trying to take claim over the box. They are then shoved back into their own section to be fed and watered. They are exercised once a day either morning or afternoon depending on which shift Richard is on and do receive a fare bit of training although not as much as he has done in the past as he doesn’t really see the point when they are working so hard around home. Out of the two hens that are paired to one cock, the one that is home first obviously gets to spend more time with the cock whilst the later arrival gets to look on at her cock playing with another hen for a few minutes in what she thinks is her box before being removed to the back section. The motivation for that hen has already begun for the following week. Such a Simple way of racing pigeons but so, so effective, made even simpler by the fantastically designed loft enabling the birds to be moved from section to section with such ease through the trap doors in the partitioning walls.
Hens' section with drop-down sections to box them up. Also note the ATX heating plate above the perches.
Young Birds. Richard only takes one full round from his stock and a select few from is race team, keeping around 40. The rest and subsequent rounds from the stock are offered for sale which help to assist finance the birds. These young birds are weaned onto a heavy bean and pea mix, 100% protein to help them grow. As of this year 2013 the ATX heaters will also be in the young bird sections, purely for the weaning period as they obviously don’t need them during the summer months when they are racing. The training is built up gradually in the same way as most fanciers do, not being moved on until they are coming well from the shorter distances, until they are up to approximately 50 miles. Obviously the young birds are darkened. Richard has tinkered with the darkness hours and has even had them on the dark until the end of August/beginning of September before now but has found that this is not really necessary. However, he does darken them for longer than most fanciers. Look at his young hen named “Miss Uitgeest”. She won 2nd Sec 5th Open MNFC Carentan 2012. She had only dropped one flight prior to going to the race in mid September. It’s clear to me that Richard wants to be able to race the youngsters in the big races at the end of the season without any fear that they will be starting to go soft and begin to moult. Unlike a lot of successful fanciers these days, the young birds are left together in the natural way to pair and nest and are raced this way right up until the last three weeks of the season when they are parted and placed on widowhood to gain that extra motivation for the all important Nationals and Classics that Richard aims to excel at. Much like with old hens, training by car has decreased from what it used to be as they exercise very well around home, although they do get one or two as and when he feels they need it.
Richard and Josh with one of the top racing cocks of 2012
Medication and supplements
Like most successful fanciers Richard has, in the past, been subjected to the usual rumours of doping and drug abuse and has, on two occasions, had his birds drug tested, both times being negative. Whilst he openly admits the use of antibiotics, he agrees that there is no place in the pigeon sport for performance enhancing drugs. Richard has a fantastic relationship with Retford Poultry’s Libby Harrison and uses her services on more than one occasion throughout the year, using the products that she recommends and provides to medicate his birds. In November all the birds are given a 10-day course with a broad spectrum antibiotic such as Bytril to ensure that 100% health is there prior to pairing up. Four weeks before that first race the birds are given a 10 to 14 day treatment against respiratory with one of the usual products such as lyncostectin or Tylan and every three weeks a treatment for canker is given for three days and in between that other medication may be given if Richard feels the need and this will backed up with advice from Libby. The young birds are also vaccinated against Salmonella using Chevi-Vac. Furazolidon is also used with the young birds. Mycostatin is regularly used for a short period after a course of treatment. On Saturdays after the race 7 in 1 from Aviform is in the water and Pro-biotics are used during the week namely Primolac on a Wednesday and a product called PS6 by BAKS on a Thursday.
Miss Uitgeest - 2nd Section 5th Open MNFC
This is another area that has been tinkered with over the years and now Richard feels that he’s just about got spot on for the type of racing that he aims at. The feeding for both old and young is similar with the difference being the young birds have more protein due to the training they receive. The corn that used is Naturals Diet, Versele Laga Champion Extra Subliem and Naturals Pro Maxi (these two mixed together to form the widow mix) and BJ’s No1 mix for breeding and weaning as it's 100% protein being all beans and peas. The feeding routine is as follows: Saturday on return from the race Diet is given the in the evening as much No1 as they wish. Sunday AM No1 PM Diet. Monday and Tuesday AM and PM Diet. Wednesday AM Diet PM Widowhood mix. Thursday AM and PM Widowhood mix. Friday AM Diet.
So now we get to the results that this young man and his team of pigeons have achieved and they really are top drawer. I will only show the last two seasons' racing as there are just far too many to go back any further.
Results, Club 2011: Top prize winner with 16x1st, 21x2nd, 17x3rd, 15x4th, 17x5th, 17x6th. Federation 2011: Top prize winner. Buckingham (1) 8th 9th. Newbury (1) 2nd 3rd 4th 12 13th 14th 15th. Newbury (2) 1st 2nd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 13th. Basingstoke (1) 5th 10th 11th 12th 13th 19th. Falaise (1) 8th 15th 18th. Portsmouth 1st. Le Mans 5th 14th 18th 20th. Poitiers 3rd 7th 9th 19th. Newbury (3) 1st 2nd 3rd. Falaise (2) 3rd. Buckingham(2) 9th 11th 12th 13th 14th 16th. Basingstoke (2) 4th 6th 7th 9th 10th 11th 12th 15th 16th 18th. Portsmouth 8th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th. Northern Classic 2011: Carentan (sent 6) 26th 28th Open. Messac (sent 4) 20th Open. Saintes (sent 2) 1st Sec 2nd Open.
Results, Club 2012: Top prize winner (missing 8 races) with 12x1st, 15xnd, 12x3rd, 12x4th, 7x5th, 7x6th. Federation 2012: Runner up top prize winner by 4 points (missing 8 races). Buckingham (1) 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th. Buckingham (2) 7th 14th 16th 17th 18th 19th. Newbury (1) 2nd 3rd 10th. Buckingham (3) 8th 13th 14th 15th 19th. Buckingham (4) 7th 15th 20th. Buckingham (5) 12th 18th 19th 20th. Buckingham (6) 5th 6th 7th 9th 15th 18th 19th. Newbury (2) 17th 19th. Newbury (3) 1st 2nd 4th 18th 20th. Bedhampton 8th 17th. Newbury (4) 2nd 3rd 20th.
Northern Classic 2012: Top prize winner. Carentan 1st 7th 11th 15th 27th 33rd Sec 1st 8th 12th 17th 31st 38th Open. Messac 1st 3rd 4th 8th 16th 21st 24th 26th 27th Sec 1st 3rd 4th 9th 19th 24th 30th 32nd 33rd Open. Saintes 5th 8th 10th 12th 17th Sec 9th 18th 20th 23rd 29th Open. Carentan Y/B 14th 17th 19th Sec 24th 27th 29th Open.
MNFC 2012: Vire 11th 17th 22nd 24th 30th Sec 60th 91st 106th 119th 164th Open. Carentan 10th 16th 25th Sec 175th 195th 344th Open. Carentan Y/B 2nd Sec 5th Open.
NFC 2012: Fourges O/H 4th 6th 16th Sec 16th 23rd 80th Open.
More results for previous years and photos can be viewed on Richard's website at www.anston-lofts.co.uk
It's got to be said, flying a relatively small team of pigeons compared to most, working full time, plus his family commitments to still achieve the results that he does, Richard Turner really is up there with the best of the best on every level. Like I said at the very beginning of this loft report, Richard is one of the best I know. He is a font of knowledge about all that is associated with racing pigeons and I’m sure he will become a big name in National racing in future years. Richard, Sarah and of course young Josh, thank you very much for making me so welcome on my visit to your lovely home. I wish you all the very best for the future.