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The Padfield Family




by Cameron Stansfield


The Padfield Family partnership came into being in 1988 when father Albert and son Dave joined forces with Dave's brother Vince. Vince was flying on his own but in earlier years had flown in partnership with the Preece Bros. The Padfields started to win almost immediately. In fact, in 1991 they were 2nd Open Lerwick National, and over the past decade they have established themselves as one of the very finest long-distance National-orientated lofts this country has ever produced. I took a trip down to Cwmtillery, which is situated in a valley off the Heads of the Valley road leading from England into South Wales, to see their set-up for myself and to take some photos. The lofts are perched fairly high up on the side of the hill to the rear of Vince's home and, as you will see from the pictures, they are far from being 'shut in', so the birds are by no means cosseted. In last week's Homing World we featured the birds of Wim Muller and it is birds from that source which have contributed most to the Padfields' success. I'll leave it to Dave to expand upon how they came to acquire the Muller pigeons and to tell readers about the family's approach to long-distance pigeon racing. This is what Dave had to say...



This cock was 9th WSRN Centenary Nantes, approx. 250th Open against 65,000 birds; 31st WSRN Saintes; 2nd WSRN Pau 2000 beaten by a loftmate; 2nd Section, 13th Open NFC Pau 2002 winning £3,000. In 2000 a son was 3rd Open CSCFC San Sebastian winning £1,000, also 91st Open NFC Pau 1999. Sire was a brother to Wim Muller's famous 'Godfather' when paired to a daughter out of 'Adonis' when paired to a daughter of the 'Super Couple'. The very best of the Mullers. The father of Albert has also bred 14th Open NFC San Sebastian, 3rd WSRN Dax and 9th CSCFC Dax etc. The dam is a double granddaughter of the Venus Supercrack bought at the Bertie Fletcher sale as a 5y cock at the Top Hat, Cwmtillery.


The Foundations


After we won 2nd Open Lerwick National in 1991, we started to think about bringing in some fresh distance pigeons and I made some investigations. We wanted birds that would take us to the extreme distance, which to us is Palamos, 741 miles. I did a lot of reading, mainly about Continental pigeons, and it was clear that the Jan Aardens were the way to go and that the best Jan Aardens were to be found in Holland because that's where their origins were. I noticed the outstanding performances of Wim Muller from places like Barcelona and that he'd formed a partnership with Hans Eijerkamp. Logic told me that as Eijerkamp could have gone to any fancier and had chosen Wim, Wim's birds must have been amongst the best. In other words, Eijerkamp's link-up was the icing on the cake in so much as it confirmed my own thoughts.

Because of Eijerkamp's link with Ponderosa, I contacted Tony at the stud in Weymouth. He told me he had 100 late-breds coming over from Wim's and these would be available for the 1992 Blackpool Show. He agreed to give me first choice. At Blackpool I went along with two friends, Carl Cousins of Abercwmboi and Bradley Blacker (who has since left the sport), and we picked out two birds each. We each kept our own pair and subsequently shared youngsters with each other. This was the base. I bred four youngsters off my pair in the first year and, with the swaps, I had three pairs at the end of the next year in the stock loft.

My original pair turned out to be a goldmine. When I saw them in Blackpool they'd have been about five months old and I picked them out on first impressions - I didn't look at the pedigrees. The first hen we raced off the original hen was the only pigeon recorded in Wales in the BBC Rennes race, being 81st Open; then as a yearling she was 3rd Fed Sartilly followed by 74th Open NFC Nantes in a west wind. After this I went back to Ponderosa and bought another eight, again on type, and basically these went back to Wim's Super Couple, Gorison and Kuisbeck lines. It was a grandson of the Gorison purchased on that visit which went on to breed Albert (Albert's dam being a double granddaughter of Supercrack). The sire of Albert became responsible in the first generation for 2nd Welsh National Pau, 3rd Welsh National Dax, 8th CSCFC Dax, 13th NFC Pau, 14th NFC Pau and he was also the grandsire of 3rd Open CSCFC San Sebastian. Meanwhile, the sire of the original hen I bought at Blackpool went on to win 16th Open Perpignan for Wim and was subsequently sold to Japan.

The 1995 Pau National told us we were on the right track. A daughter of the original hen was 33rd Open and her half-brother out of the original cock crossed with a double granddaughter of the Super Couple was 63rd Open. In that race only Eddie Froggatt and ourselves timed two pigeons on the winning day.

Initially we kept the Mullers pure to establish a number of pairs and then we began crossing them for racing. One red cock, who has won 1st, 3rd, 23rd and 39th Welsh National Pau, is out of an original chequer pied hen when crossed with a red Janssen cock from Alan Maull of Rhigos, via my good friend's Carl and Islwyn Cousins. (By the way, this red cock was not actually paired to the cheq pied hen but with the colouration of the red youngster in the nest it was obvious from the other pigeons which were in the same section that he had to be the sire!)

Over subsequent years Tony has gifted us other Muller pigeons and in turn we have sent birds back to Ponderosa.

It wasn't until the year 2000 that I went over to Wim's for the first time and I have to say the birds were exactly what I had expected, similar in type to The Don, who was 2nd Open BBC Palamos for us when Frank Perry won it with Llanover Lady. The Don is out of a cock out of the original pair who was 118th Open Pau National and a hen who was out of our Number 2 pair, these being a hen whose dam was out of the Number 1 pair and a cock from Bradley Blacker's original pair from Blackpool.

We have such a nice blend of lines now that we could probably carry on for another 10 to 15 years without bringing in fresh blood, though having said that we are currently trying a pair out of Invincible Spirit lines, one via Louella and one via Mal Cooke's Lerwick-winning blood. I believe our team is now stronger than ever.

A Team Effort


Dad and I have always done the selecting of fresh stock, and Vince has always looked after the racers. In terms of being able to condition a pigeon to do a job, I would put Vince up against anybody. If there is any potential for disagreement on whether, for example, to send or not send a particular bird to a particular race, it will be Vince who has the final say but to be honest, it seldom comes down to that. There's a mutual respect between the three of us so we tend to discuss things and then agree on them, without anything ever developing into an argument.


Dave Padfield


Vince Padfield




We now think our methods are the best for what we want to achieve, which is a loft on form at the height of summer. We used to fly natural but as natural pigeons need training and that's something we don't like having to do, we have adapted a roundabout/natural method. Basically we like the concept of an open loft but natural pigeons do go stale so they need splitting at some point. We adopt an open loft from when they are paired in February until they go on roundabout and then again from when they come off roundabout and are re-paired in preparation for Pau. Once on roundabout they are exercised for an hour morning and evening and have about 5 inland races. We tend to miss the first one or two races of the season, invariably because east winds are about and they are the worst thing a pigeon can have. A hard race in an east wind can ruin a pigeon for the year.


The Switch To Roundabout


Our nest boxes are designed in such a way that we can divide the front half from the back half. When they have sat their second round of eggs for 10 days the cock is locked in the front of the nest box and the hen in the back where the nestbowl is. The eggs and bowls are taken away once the hens get fed up and all the hens are confined in their own boxes for 22 hours a day otherwise they would pair and lose interest in the cocks. During the first week of separation we basically force them to exercise then after that they will happily do an hour, scattering over the sky like widowhood cocks do. Although we don't set out to motivate them on roundabout we do put up some good performances in the shorter overseas races, often being in the first 20 or 40 Open in the CSCFC and Welsh National races. When the birds first go on roundabout you see an immediate improvement in the condition of both sexes. They look keener - maybe because they are worrying a bit. They spend about 5 weeks on the system. I know a lot of people can keep them on roundabout all season but our birds are absolutely hyped up and ready to re-pair after five weeks. We have never tried holding them on roundabout through to the longest races.


A feature of the Padfield loft is its depth of 12 foot and the extra deep nestboxes which can be divided in half. In the photo you can just make out a cock 'hiding' in the rear half of the box. When the time comes to put him on roundabout, he will be kept in the front half of the box whilst his hen will be kept in the rear. Here she will be fed and watered in her own box. See the second picture which shows the expanse of boxes at the rear of the loft.



Early Form


We rarely get in the first three from the shorter races and if we do we are as shocked as everyone else, but at 250 miles we are usually getting that bit closer. If we worked our birds differently I think they'd have the speed to win, especially the Clerebaut and Morgan & Cooke lines. Indeed, in the past they have topped the fed in the shorter races.




When they come off roundabout they go back on an open loft from 5am to 10pm and once sat they have two or a maximum three tosses from between 50 and 80 miles as a tuner, generally from the south. Through the design of our loft, with it being elevated from the lawned area, we can encourage our birds to work really hard carrying nesting material, and they are always taking off and landing. I think this is better than flying around the loft because it requires more effort. Their last toss is two or three days before basketing. They don't carry a lot of weight. They are muscular but not heavy, blown out if you will and getting them like that is a natural progression of the complete cycle. When we re-pair them they don't go flat. In fact, with driving, they basically bash about all over the shop.




They are sent to Pau sitting from anywhere between 12 days and feeding a 7-day youngster on the day of the race (in other words a two- or three-day-old youngster at basketing). I think this is when birds are at their keenest and, because once basketed they are still mindful they'll have a youngster to feed, they eat extra food in the basket, hence they have extra fuel for the race. For Palamos we prefer to send them on a youngster. There is a variable to this approach in that we will send a cock who has a youngster at 25 to 28 days old and who is back sitting eggs for 10 to 12 days and so has a double incentive. I feel that in terms of getting pigeons to peak, you can get them to improve in the basket if you send them on youngsters. As for the wing, we think they are on a downward path once they have cast their third primary, so they go to Pau on either their first or second.


Blue Hen 38

This hen is the dam of 3rd WSRN Dax and 9th CSCFC Dax 2003. Her sire is 'Padfield Perfection' and her dam is a full sister to 'Holloway Boy', 1st Open NFC Pau for Paul Kendal of Wantage. The Padfields bred the mother of 'Holloway Boy' and sold it to Derek Parkin of Wantage. He bred 'Holloway Boy' as a gift for Paul Kendal and the rest is history. 'Morning Glory', a grandson of 'Holloway Boy', has been twice 2nd Open NFC Pau.


Mid-Summer Not Late Summer


Because of our loft design we can re-pair two sections (16 boxes per section) in front of the other two sections by a week or so, then we open the doors of the whole loft. Everything is geared to having the birds in form for the races closest to Midsummer's Day. Consequently, we seldom send a bird back to the distance twice in the same season. They might be better at the second time of asking but Vince is fairly adamant that once is enough - the pigeon has been prepared for a specific race and that's it. In the past decade we have finished outside the top 10 in the Welsh National from Pau only once and that was when they pushed the race back to July 25th, a month later than normal. We finished 19th and 20th Open so it wasn't a disaster for us but we knew before the race that the birds had gone over the top. That memory was one of the reasons why, on principle, we did not send to NFC Pau in 2003 - it was too late for our pigeons and our methods. At the time of speaking, which is March 9th, the birds are just looking to hatch their first round and they would be in about 40% of the condition and fitness we'd expect to have them in come the long races. By the time of Nantes at the start of June, after they have been on roundabout for 4 or 5 weeks, they will be something like.


Finishing Touches


The last race we give them before Pau is somewhere like Messac or Nantes - 260 to 320 miles. The red cock's final prep race on each of the 4 occasions he won from Pau was Rennes, 259 miles. We've never lifted pigeons from England straight to Pau. They always go across the Channel, the reason being we are looking ideally for an 8- to 10-hour fly. Having said that, when The Don was 2nd Open Palamos in the foot-and-mouth year we had to change our system and lift him straight from England to 740 miles. You've got to find the best methods for getting the best out of particular families and what works for some, does not necessarily suit others. We've adjusted our system over the years to suit the best birds we have. When all is said and done, though, if a pigeon hasn't the capacity to fly the distance, you are wasting your time whatever you do.


Pied Hen 95

The last youngster out of the original Muller pair. As a 2y she was 28th Open CSCFC Pau and was then put to stock. The sire of the original cock was out of a brother to 'Mona Lisa', a son of the 'Golden Breeder', when paired to a hen out of the grandsire to 'First Lady', 1st National Perpignan for Wim Muller, when paired to a sister to 'Madonna', 17th Nat Barcelona. This hen was also out of the 'Golden Breeder'. The sire of the original hen was a cock called 'Flash' who was 15th National Perpignan before being sold to Japan. His sire was a brother to 'Madonna' out of the 'Golden Breeder'. His dam was the mother of 'Magic Boy', 1st National Ace Pigeon of Holland 1994. He was also 1st National and International Ace Pigeon ZLU Barcelona 1993 to 1997.


Ideal Conditions


Ideally we prefer an early-morning liberation from Pau and a north-east wind to take it out of all those widowhood cocks on the first day! Having said that, in a south-west at 600 miles we'll get in amongst the leading pigeons.


Wasting A Year


Prior to 2000 we didn't send 2ys to Pau but we came to the conclusion that we were possibly wasting a year. We have found that at two they'll do Pau no problem and last year we sent a 2y hen of Muller/Clerebaut lines to Palamos to win 37th Open.




When they return we don't do anything fancy to help them recover; we just let them rest basically, and they can go to the hopper and have all the food they want - we don't just allow them access to small stuff.


The aviaries on the front of the stock sections


Early Retirement


In the foot-and-mouth year, because there was no likelihood at one time of any distance racing, we decided to retire every pigeon we had which had scored either in the first 30 of the Welsh National from Pau or the first 100 of the NFC or CSCFC from Pau. All told, we stopped 18 birds! Fortunately for us, although The Don had flown Pau three times, his best position was 'only' 34th Open so he didn't meet the criteria - thank God. He went on to win 1st Greater Distance Single Bird Club and 2nd Open BBC Palamos. And a hen who had won 30 something and 50 something Open Pau also missed out - again thank God. She went on to win 121st Open NFC San Sebsatian and then 3 weeks later 8th Open in the hard Anglo-Welsh San Sebastian won by Wilf Reed. She is one of the few pigeons we have sent to the distance twice in the same season.


What's left in the tank


How far can pigeons reasonably race? We normally send between 2 and 4 to Palamos and have done for the last 8 to 10 years. I've come to the conclusion that although it's too far for certain birds it's not an issue for some. The Don was out chasing his hen within 10 minutes of coming back from Palamos. I know this will sound stupid but from Pau we've had pigeons at 6pm on the second day after flying 16 hours on day one and 12 hours on day two and they've looked like they could have gone on for days. With the pigeons we have now, with the cross having given them so much strength, Pau doesn't hurt them. When we were 3rd Open San Sebastian National, within 10 minutes of that cock's return he went out with his hen and flew up and down the valley for three-quarters of an hour - witnessed by many other fanciers I might add! Our old lines would handle the distance but the Muller introduction has given them extra stamina. I think the Morgan & Cooke lines would have handled Palamos without a cross but the Clerebauts, in my experience, are best at 550 miles.

Padfield's Perfection

Raced on the north road until a 2y. As a yearling he was 6th Open New North Road Roslyn Park. Then he went on to become probably the best Pau bird ever to fly in the Welsh National scoring 1st, 3rd, 23rd and 39th Open WSRN Pau. Unfortunately he just missed out on a Meritorious Award with the WSRN as that requires a bird to be 3 times in the first 20 in 3 Pau nationals! He is a first cross Janssen cock x the original Wim Muller hen. He is also leaving his mark at stock being a grandsire to 3rd WSRN Dax and 9th CSCFC Dax 2003.

Enough Is Enough


After the red cock won the National on his second attempt, we sent him back twice more and people said, 'Why send him back when he's already won a National?' Our view is that pigeons are for racing. Vince always says if you don't want to race them you might as well keep budgies! And to be honest, if you want to win the big prizes you have to send your very best. The prospect of losing a bird at 6 or 7 years of age doesn't faze Vince. It is only really in recent years that we have stopped pigeons after they've raced up to 6. We have a very no nonsense approach. Favourites? The longer you keep pigeons the harder you tend to get.




Since 1995 our returns from the distance have remained at a similar level. I would say that at Pau we average about 80% returns. Typically if we were to send 12-15 to the Welsh National, we'd expect to have 6 to 10 on the result and from NFC Pau we send 6 to 8, looking to get perhaps 3 in the first 150. Initially we will start off racing 70 to 80 youngsters and will have about 40 - 50 left after they've all had a Channel race. Then we select fom those to make up our yearlings, although to be frank we do not like the concept of culling. For sure, if a pigeon is not right in the nest it is culled but once they make it into the race team we very rarely cull unless a pigeon just doesn't perform at all. Those 40 or so yearlings are sent to 350 miles and we'd expect about 25 of these to go forward as 2y olds. As I said, we now send them to Pau at two rather than wait for them until three, and out of 25 sent we'd expect about 15 home. The hen who won our first Welsh National from Pau was having her second trip, as was the red cock when he won Pau, whereas the blue cock who won Pau did so on his first attempt.



Educating early


All our young birds fly the Channel with either the BBC, the NFC, the Welsh SR or the CSCFC - something they have been doing for the past 8 years. The most difficult Channel races generally are with the BBC and the NFC. The Welsh is the best for returns followed by the CSCFC. We find the drop-out rate in later years, of pigeons which have flown the Channel as youngsters, is a lot lower compared with those which just had a couple of 100 milers and were stopped - as yearlings they seem to go down in the first difficult race they encounter. We are not great trainers of young birds. They get perhaps 10 tosses before the first race and thereafter one toss a week.




Ours are quite intelligent as young birds, evidenced by the fact that they are having to fly the Channel into Wales which is against the odds, though they are not at this stage coming to win. There is tremdenous difference in our pigeons from the young bird stage to two years of age and even from two to three. It's difficult to explain how they develop but it's as if at two they look capable of winning at 600 miles whereas at three they look capable of winning at a thousand miles! They look more 'finished' somehow.



Silver Hen 19

A beautiful cheq hen whose best position from Pau was with the NFC in 2000 when she was 9th Section, 59th Open from 4,000 birds, winning the Z pool and £800. She is a granddaughter of '89' and a full sister scored 184th in the Million Dollar race at Sun City.




Our loft, with regard to the NFC, is in one of the worst spots in the UK, being to the west of the majority, with our birds having to come over Devon and then the Bristol Channel if they are to keep a true line. Having said that, over recent years with more birds contesting the south route into Wales I think the Bristol Channel is proving to be less of an obstacle.


Going International


I feel at the moment as far as International racing goes, it is about right with Dax being on the NFC's calendar and the BICC catering for the other races but in reality, we need east in the wind to stand a chance. We used to fly in the BICC but gave it up because we felt we were banging our heads against a brick wall. The drag meant the birds were coming into the east of England, so much so that when we heard of early times in the east, we could set our watch by when our birds would arrive home after having had to work back.


Avoiding Hassle


We very rarely shift our race pairs around. We are lazy, basically, and try to avoid hassle wherever we can. We select the pairs originally and thereafter tend to stick with them. We pair on performance first, then line and conformation are equal secondary considerations. When you handle our birds you will notice that in 90% of the cases they are of a type.



1st Welsh SR National Pau.




We believe the root cause of most problems is canker. We haven't had the birds tested, however, for the past 2 or 3 years. Interestingly, every time we've had a cocci count taken it has been very low. We have never given them anything for respiratory. I think health and ability go hand in hand. For example, many years ago when I was flying with dad, we used a deep litter system with our hens. It was very dry and dusty, too much so, and when you looked at 23 out of the 24 hens they looked to be suffering, but the one hen who wasn't suffering was the hen who won 8th Open Lerwick. She was in a different class to the others anyway.




They have a lot of beans in the winter, and in the summer they have beans, peas and tares and we also mix two widowhood mixes together and a fat mix. All year round they can eat what they want. We feed to appetite. We've fed more or less this way since we started.


On Tour


I don't visit many other lofts in this country and Vince is even worse than me. I have, however, enjoyed loft visits on the Continent. Are they ahead of us? On nutrition, yes; they've gone into it more deeply. As for general husbandry, like the UK, that varies from fancier to fancier. I respect Brian Leadbeater, Paul Kendal and Jim Biss, and in Wales Preece Bros, Haydn Minett and Wilf Reed. At the moment we are exchanging birds with the Leadbeaters as we have both had success with the Supercrack lines. I have one of Brian's currently paired to Albert.




The biggest mistake we've made is trying to get pigeons to race too early in the season thinking that just by changing their feed come the longer races they could win them too.




Our target is to win NFC Pau and BBC Palamos. For Palamos this year we'll be sending back the hen who was 37th Open in 2003, and as for Pau, I wouldn't like to have to pick just one out that we are pinning our hopes on. We will be sending 10 to 15 and we think all of them are capable of winning it.


A few thoughts from Albert Padfield


I started back in 1946, a time when clubs were double the strength they are today, and my aim then and ever since has been to fly the distance. I've no interest in the shorter races. In those early days we wanted to win Lerwick and Thurso but, though Thurso to us was under 500 miles, it was very rare to time on the day. If you did you had a good pigeon. And if you had one home in good time from Lerwick it was seen as oustanding. The Atwells were the tops but over the years there have been many other outstanding fanciers - the likes of Bale Brothers & Griffiths, Morgan & Cooke, Will Lewis, Fear Bros of Pontypridd and Bowen Bros of Porthcawl.

Distance pigeons are a lot more compact now, what I would refer to as apple-bodied, whereas we used to race bigger, deeper birds. Our present Muller pigeons are the best birds we've ever had. Even though the Clerebauts have been good, the Mullers have the edge. We always get an audience for the Pau race and often when people have turned up to wait we've had to tell them they're too late as we've already clocked two or three! One time, we had three home from Pau before a friend turned up and then as he arrived another two pied cocks dropped together (one being The Don)! My biggest thrill was winning the Welsh National from Pau for the first time - it was something special. The best pigeon I've owned? That would have to be the red cock, Padfield's Perfection. He'd just shade Albert.

We've found that in the five weeks they are on roundabout we can get them fitter than if they are kept on the natural system - we seem able to build their muscle better - and then of course when we re-pair they are more eager than if they had just remained paired together. We have tried them on widowhood but although we could take the first three positions in the shorter races they didn't seem to have what it takes when the chips were down, whereas natural pigeons always seem to come through. I think it's all about a love of home - create that and they will fly their hearts out for you.

My ambition is to win Pau with the National Flying Club, even more than it is to win Palamos. We used to wait until they were three before sending them to Pau but we have found they are just as up for the job at two. I would say half then go on to put up an improved performance at three - but half don't! Experience is very much overrated. If you've got good pigeons, and if they've been to 300 miles and are fit, they can be sent to 600 miles and will beat the best.

I'd like to think I was a good judge of a pigeon. If I decide to pick a bird out for stock, usually it proves me right. Many times I've picked out the best in other lofts. They seem to have an intelligent look and are alert, watching everything that's going on. Inquisitive if you like. Then when you handle such pigeons it's very rare they disappoint you.

There are so many things I don't understand about pigeons and I'm still learning after all this time. I've made the same mistakes as thousands of others and the biggest mistake has been not listening to my instincts if I've had a little doubt over whether a bird should be sent to a distance race or not. I have a saying: 'If in doubt, don't lash out.' Make sure the pigeon is sent fit to do what's required of it. Remember, there's always another day.


The Don

2nd Open British Barcelona Club Palamos.