Gordon Bros talking to Les J Parkinson
Gary & Niall Gordon
There are many very good fanciers around the UK, for this report we move to Northern Ireland where there is some of the best competition in the UK. We have seen some fantastic results from the partnership, so here is what they have to say.
Gordon Bros Race Loft
1. Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started in the sport.
A. We’re Niall and Gary Gordon and we’re the sons in the partnership Gordon Bros and Sons. We got started in the sport like most others of our age really the birds were always on the garden so we inherited our passion from our father and uncle. Our Uncle John is still an active part in the partnership and helps us whenever he can
Race Loft corridor
2. With your pigeon work do you have a silent partner i.e. wife, partner or friend, if so what part do they play.
A. Apart from those listed above there are no others in our partnership.
3. Do you consider there to be any advantage having a racing partnership.
A. Many hands make light work so of course it’s easier being in a partnership. We are fortunate that being brothers we trust each other implicitly with what the other one is doing because our ambition and our passion to win is the same. Our Uncle John is also a huge asset to us because we all work as a team to help us achieve our ambitions
4. Are there any points that you disagree on and if so how do you compromise a situation where there is a different viewpoint?
A. We?re brothers so of course there are decisions that need to be taken sometimes where we have a different opinion but because we?re brothers, we sort it out without too much fuss. Whichever one backs down has the advantage of being able to say, ?I told you so!? if the decision that was taken turns out to be the wrong one.
5. Do each of you have an area within the partnership where responsibilities take control regarding a decision?
A. Not really, we do everything between us but it?s not like one does cocks and one does hens, or one does OB and the other does the YB and Stock. We both do everything between us.
6. Give the readers the most memorable results that you have achieved flying as a partnership and flying on your own.
A. We?ve a number of results that are records that we?re very proud of in recent seasons. We won the NIPA against 22,129 birds and had 32 birds in the top 40 of the Open (a record we?re told). We took the first 34 places in the EDC Section against 3,545 birds (a record we?re told). We took the first 17 in the Open of the EDC against 1,454 birds (a record we?re told). We took the first 38 against 1,172 birds. We had 19 birds in the top 20 of the NIPA against 19,146 birds (a record we?re told) and 30 in the first 46 against 19,146 birds. In 2019 we took the first 10 places in the NIPA and 29 in the top 32 against 4,810 birds. As you can see, we?re flying a system that encourages our birds to try and find each other early in the race and then get home together as fast as possible and in numbers too.
7. Is there anything that you have not won in the sport that you would like to achieve?
A. 15 years ago, we?d have a pigeon and then maybe wait 2-3 minutes for another one, and then another one. It used to do our heads in. They?re all fed the same, treated the same why don?t they perform the same? That set us on a path to sort this out and we?ve made big progress as you can see by the above results. We wouldn?t have a particular ambition that we crave, but we?re driven to see how good our performances can be. Every year we?re either getting better birds or getting better at managing them (or both!).
8. What organisations do you race with?
A. We basically fly with the East Down Combine and sometimes we fly with the NIPA. It?s rare that we send in both organisations on the same day. Where we go, we go as one. We can judge our pigeons performance better if they?re all competing against each other. Winning 2 races in one day isn?t an inspiration for us finding out what the best pigeons that we keep is our passion and we only learn that when they compete against each other
9. Do you hold any official position and if so, do you take an active part, if no what are your reasons.
A. We try to support our local clubs as much as we can but we hold no active positions on a larger scale. Between ourselves we have 7 children who are all at school and we just don?t have the time to be honest.
10. What are your lofts made of and how big are they.
A. We made our lofts ourselves. They are 100 feet long with a flat corrugated tin roof.
11. Do you attach any importance to having a tiled roof on a loft, if so are there any benefits.
A. We?ve never seen any advantage in a tiled roof so we don?t operate one at present.
12. Do you use any form of heating system in any of your lofts. Do you think it would be advantages for the birds?
A. There are heaters and lights etc in the lofts but the heaters are rarely used. The lights are invaluable to us because most nights in the winter we?re feeding the birds after 9pm once the children have gone to bed.
13. How do you control the ventilation in your loft.
A. Slides in the roof.
14. Do you have any grills fitted in the floor or in the boxes, are there any advantages to using them.
A. All our lofts have grills in the boxes and on the floor. We don?t have time to clean out every day because of our work and family commitments.
15. What families of pigeons do you keep?
A. We?re in a position now where if somebody comes to us for pigeons, we have something for everybody. The cornerstone of our sprint families is, the new ?Best Kittel? and the Van Den Bulck. We have 10 direct children of ?Best Kittel? at Stock. For those races that stretch a little further into the more middle-distance category we have 4 direct children of ?Golden Prince? and a direct son of ?Armando?. The Golden Prince is a KBDB Champion who has bred KBDB Champions. He was sold for 360,000 euro?s. The ?Armando? cock of course found worldwide fame being sold for over 1.2 million euro?s recently. For the Long-Distance races, we have some pigeons that we?ve bought direct from Mark Gilbert including 2 direct from ?Golden Barcelona?. This is the cock that bred his 2 x 1st National winner ?Hugo?. For the One Loft Races we went and got direct children from the USA of ?Ornat? who must be one of the best One Loft Race breeders in the world right now.
16. Easterly or Westerly do you set any stall by the position and if so why.
A. Loft location will always play a part in the outcome of a race, regardless of distance. In the large organisations that we fly in we know that when the wind is in the East the West side have the edge, and when the wind is in the West the East side have an edge. Anybody saying anything different is having a laugh really.
BREEDING AND RACE PREPARATION/PLANNING
17. How do you go about bringing in a new family and what do you look for.
A. We?re relentless at this. We scour the world and invest a lot of time when we?re not racing hunting a pigeon that we think might offer us something that we?re lacking at the moment. If you don?t seek you won?t find. When we introduce it?s always about results? If they don?t have the results then nothing else matters. We get offered lots of birds each year not many make it into the loft. We placed our order for the ?Best Kittels? in February 2018. They had won the KBDB Sprint Title in 2015 and 2017 and were 4th in 2016. Since we placed our order the same family have been 2nd KBDB Sprint Champion in 2018 and 1st KBDB sprint Champion in 2019.
18. When you bring in that new family do you think that they need time to acclimatise, if so, how long.
A. No, good pigeons need no excuses. We manage them well and we expect them to perform. If they can?t hold their own or beat what we already have then they are of little value to us. We?re already assessing new pigeons before they even get to the first race. We?ll probably come onto that later in the article.
19. When looking for new pigeons do you look for a particular family, one for specialist races or club races or just by name.
A. Names are not important to us but performances are. There does seem to be certain ?types? of pigeons that excel in certain conditions. The breeding record of ?Ornat? on One Loft Races suggest that it?s not luck when you go to a One Loft Race with his bloodlines. They have a knack of sorting it out. We went to Mark Gilbert last year and saw a ?type? of pigeon that was capable of flying long distances at a good speed. They were a very different ?build? to our own pigeons.
20. Which of the two sexes do you consider is the most important when it comes to breeding?
A. They are both as important as each other. What we?re all looking for is that ?special one? that has an uncanny knack of producing exceptionally talented pigeons on a regular basis. Whether that?s a cock or a hen it wouldn?t matter to us if it were ?special?.
21. Some fanciers like big hens for breeding does the size of the hen make any difference to the quality of youngsters that she breeds in your past experience.
A. We look for certain qualities in our breeding hens (besides their bloodlines) and large hens and small hens don?t fit into our plans as a rule.
22. When it comes to breeding do you line-breed or use a first cross or just pair winners to winners.
A. We mainly operate winners to winners to be honest. Whether you?re sprinting or racing distance we think it?s imperative to try and get as many high class multi performance pigeons into a pedigree as possible. By doing that you?re not asking the offspring to do something that the parents and grandparents haven?t done
23. Do you think that fanciers change for the sake of changing or do you think a loft can breed a winning team out and lose track of the winners. A. We change for the sake of changing, I guess. In recent years we?ve sold highly proven teams of Roodhoofts, Wijnants and Heremans and bought in new pigeons. We like to do this because it keeps us on our toes and we?ll probably do it again too. It tests us as pigeon men.
24. What method do you use to select your breeders.
A. Wherever possible we go looking for direct children of Champions. By working with the elite, it makes your job easier.
25. Did you find your best breeding pigeon by luck or judgment?
A. 100% Judgement. Nothing gets into our breeding lofts by luck.
26. What materials do you use for nesting.
A. Nest felts. We?ll sometimes use a bit of straw too.
27. When do you pair your pigeons and why then.
A. Racers are paired around Blackpool. This gives us time to get them in some sort of fitness and condition before the race season starts in Mid-April. We don?t want them ?in form? any earlier because there?s nothing to win in March.
28. How many stock birds do you keep and do you breed off your race team also how many pigeons do you think that you need to breed off any individual stock pair each year to see if they are quality producers.
A. We house 20 pair at stock. Yes, we rear off our race team but rarely keep them for ourselves because our birds are always sought after to be honest. Because of the Bird of Prey factor, we?d say it?s reasonable to need 4-6 off a pair to see if they were any good. They?ll get 2 seasons maximum to show us that they are gifted.
29. Please explain the method used from pairing up until the first race. A. Our birds get very little exercise throughout the winter so when we?re paired, we start to get them out and getting them agile again. We take 1 YB away with the hen and leave 1 with the cock to finish off. Once the YB are away it?s all about getting them out twice a day and getting them in some sort of fitness. Once racing starts our OB are never trained so we?ll look at getting maybe 8 tosses into them before the first race. We watch them closely at home around the loft. Our birds never have an hour we don?t want them to. It?s the quality of what they have that we look at. We?re looking for high intensity.
30. Do you move the hens with the young birds?
A. One YB stays with the cock, one goes with the hen.
31. What is the farthest distance that you would train your old birds or young birds?
A. Occasionally, very occasionally they might get a look at Navan (around 60 miles) but these are really rare. Maybe 1 toss a year. Basically, we don?t go beyond 20 miles and our Old Birds are never trained once the race season has started. We just don?t have the time. You?re looking at a 2 hour round trip for a 20 miles training toss because we have to catch a ferry both ways across the Lough and we need to be on the way to work by 08:30.
32. Do you breed off the top widowhood cocks after the racing has finished, do you breed late bred youngsters and what do you think of those later bred youngsters.
A. Yes, we rear off our OB but again they are always sold because people are always asking for them. We expect them to be high class because the gene pool is strong and hopefully the parents have achieved things of note on the road.
33. For every 50 pigeons that you breed realistically how many of them would win at 500mls, based on your past records.
A. We?re not a loft that has that sort of attention at the moment.
34. How do you race your pigeons and how many.
A. In 2020 we?re starting the year with 48 pairs That?s everything. In Ireland there are plenty that keep more. We?re developing a system that we affectionately call ?The Pursuit System?. The origins of it come from Rob Fenwick who helped us understand a new way of racing. We?re developing and tweaking this method as each year goes by. Both sexes are raced week in week out when the weather allows us to but we?re not afraid to sit a week out if needed. The ?Pursuit System? is basically a blend of widowhood, roundabout, jealousy and chaos all rolled into one.
35. Do you compete in the National events, if not why not? Or are you happy to race in the club.
A. Generally speaking we don?t go to National events. Where we live on the extreme East Coast it?s really hard to feature high up and we?d rather leave the birds at home than risk them in a race that we have no realistic chance of winning. In 2019 we did send 1 pigeon (a single entry) to the Barleycove National and she won 35th Open that was a great effort considering that we only sent the one. Averages don?t mean a thing to us. What challenges us and what inspires us is to try and be the best we can in any race that we compete in. If the conditions look like we might get a bad race we?re very happy to give the race a miss. It?s no different than say Aiden O?Brien not running a horse in a big race because the ground isn?t right.
?The 14 Hen?
1st Section, 1st Open Tullamore 3,577 birds
37. Do you race your pigeons every week or do you prefer to condition them for a specific race.
A. We?re primarily interested in racing down to the South of Ireland only so we can reach a maximum distance of maybe 275 or so at the very most. As a rule, the birds will go every week but we?ll adapt this if we feel we need to. Sometimes a pigeon might need a breather if it?s made a mistake, or sometimes we?ll not send if we sense a bad race due to dodgy weather. Generally speaking, pigeons aren?t ?targeted? for specific races. If we ever try to race France in the future then those pigeons would have to be treated differently perhaps.
38. In your view do you think that a loft needs different pigeons for different distances?
A. If the same loft is going to compete at a very high level at different distances then yes, different birds are required. At Mark Gilbert?s we saw and handled birds that had raced 500 and 600 miles and beyond many times and I mean competitively too. They were a very different creature to ours in the hand and their wings were different too
39. Is there any specific condition that your pigeons perform best at, or any particular time of the year?
A. No, not really. We do feel at our best at around the 150-200 miles mark. At that point we feel like the pigeons that we keep have a natural ability to get home A to B zip zip in record fast time. They can get out as soon as the race starts and just blast it all the way home. We don?t expect our pigeons to circle when they are liberated. They have this drilled into them from birth. That?s part of ?The Pursuit System?.
?The 133 Hen?
Van Den Bulck x Andre Roodhooft
3rd Section 3rd Open 3,378 birds (beaten by 2 loft mates)
4th Open NIPA Fermoy 5,495 birds,
6th Open Tullamore 5,294 birds,
7th Open Fermoy (Beat by 4 loftmates)
8th Open Fermoy 1,669 birds,
12th Open Thurles 2,729 birds,
15th Open Fermoy 3,381 birds,
17th Open Fermoy 4,126 birds,
33rd Open NIPA Fermoy 12,018 birds
35th Open Thurles 5,194 birds,
17th Section F NIPA Roscrea 1,158 birds
8th Section F NIPA 5 Bird Classic Fermoy
40. When do you allow your racers to take a bath?
A. No specific day really. It depends on the day and the time that we have available to offer them a bath.
41. Do you use any floor dressing or do you clean the pigeons out daily. A. Neither. There are grills in the boxes and on the floors. This way the birds stay clean and don?t come into contact with the droppings. We simply don?t have time to clean out on a daily basis.
42. Do you like to have plenty of room for the pigeons?
A. We are blessed with plenty of room so we never overcrowd. This is a pitfall that many fanciers fall foul of.
43. How do you feed the cocks and what do you feed them on, a branded mix or do you buy separate corns and mix your own.
A. Generally speaking we use the mixtures from Natural but we?ll mix our own from there depending on whether we feel we need to increase the protein, or the fats, or the carbs.
?The Derby Cock?
1st Open Skibereen Classic 2019
He was 11th Combine 2 weeks prior to the Derby win against 3,381 birds
44. Do you measure the amount that you give to each pigeon, or are they fed according to the individual pigeon.
A. The birds aren?t fed individually but we do have ideas about how much they should get. It?s nothing ground-breaking but we watch the weather 24 x 7 for a week in advance all the time and we?re modifying our approach to each race based on what the race conditions are. No two weeks preparation are the same.
45. Do you attach any importance to grits and minerals or can the pigeons get what they want they are out of the loft.
A. All birds have a supply of grit and minerals available to them at all times and we wouldn?t encourage them to acquire any outside the loft. We need to know exactly what everything is that the birds are putting into their system. We?re in control of them not the other way round.
46. Is there a way that your pigeons let you know when they are in form?
A. We know when our pigeons are right. It?s not a question of ?they flew an hour tonight?. Our pigeons never fly an hour morning and night. We never ask them to either. It?s more important that the quality of what they?ve had is of a high standard. Without health, fitness, condition and motivation you won?t find form. You need those in place to get form. Having said that we find good birds are motivated naturally. We don?t look for things like spots on the keel etc. It?s an attitude that we?re looking for. Yes, the droppings are tight and the down feathers are flowing and the wattles are bright and crisp and the eyes gleam but it?s the attitude that we?re interested in. When they?re breaking their necks to get back inside the loft that?s when our confidence increases.
2nd Sect 2nd Open Tullamore 19,146 birds
2nd Section 30th Open Dunmanway 5,272 birds bblm
9th Open Mallow 3,378 birds
17th Open Fermoy 3,381birds
19th Open EDC Fermoy (beaten by 16 loft mates)
35th Open Barleycove National 3,400 birds (single entry)
47. Do you have any secrets about what you do with your pigeons and how you get them right?
A. We don?t know about ?secrets? but there are certain things that we do when certain circumstances arise. For instance, we never treat for canker unless diagnosed with that issue, but we?ll always treat for ornithosis if the birds have encountered rain on the way home from a race. To us that?s not a secret, that?s just common sense
48. Do the pigeons need any special treatment on their return from the race to help them relax? Is any such treatment needed for the short or long-distance races or the hard races compared to the easy races?
A. We can only speak for sprinting because that?s what we do. At our lofts it?s not about ?relaxing? after a race it?s simply about getting them to recover 100% as quickly and as efficiently as possible following their exertion. The sooner they are fully recovered the sooner we can prepare properly for the week ahead.
49. How many weeks do you think a pigeon can maintain its form on the widowhood system for both cocks and hens?
A. We race both sexes and to be honest that just comes down to how exceptional the pigeon is. Our better pigeons will take big Open prizes on a handful of occasions or more per season. Others might chip in 2-3 times a year. That?s what makes the better pigeons better.
50. Does this include channel races or are the specified number of weeks for sprint races and do you think that a pigeon can be prepared at fortnightly intervals for the channel races.
A. We?re only really experienced at racing sprint week in week out and wouldn?t be experienced enough to advise on channel races.
Darkness Young Birds
51. If your race team went off form during the season what action would you take to restore their condition?
A. We get our droppings and swabs tested by 3 different vets every week regardless of whether we win or lose. If there is a health issue then we need to know about it before the pigeon does.
52. What happens when you are racing either widowhood or the roundabout when you have a bad race and lose a few from one sex, how do you continue with those pigeons who have lost their mate.
A. It?s not a problem. We race cocks and hens each week. If one partner loses another partner, they have a choice. They can either choose another partner or go lonely! Most of our race birds don?t keep the same partner week in week out anyway.
53. Is a favourable loft location the single biggest factor in sprint racing.
A. It?s a big factor yes but it?s not the be all and end all. You can be in a decent position but you?ve still got to get the pigeons. We?ve heard all the sayings about ?Well they should win it on that wind?. They must think we?re the only ones who fly into this part of the world! If we?re in a position where the Open might be won in our area then we want to be in with a shout of winning it and the more birds we can get at the front of the leading kit the better the chance we have. That?s the way we see it. It?s not about numbers. Plenty of lofts send more than we do it?s about how many can you get at the front of the leading batch. We?re ruthless in our approach like this. This is how we judge our pigeons. After 2 minutes of the 1st bird arriving, we want 50% of the birds home. After 5 mins we want 85% of them home. They?re all treated the same, fed the same etc so why should you expect a variation in performance?
54. Do you treat pigeons differently with their preparation if they are to go to the bigger races whether National, Classic, Specialist club or open.
A. To be honest we give our maximum every week we can regardless of how ?big? the race is. A race is a race and it?s there to be won. If there?s a choice between winning and losing then we choose winning so we give everything every week regardless. We won?t win every single week but when we get beat, we make sure it?s not through lack of effort on our part.
?The 50 Cock?
3rd Open Mallow 4,255 birds,
3rd Open Fermoy 2,573 birds
10th Open Tullamore 22,129 birds,
10th Open Mallow Classic 541 birds,
12th Open 3,577 birds,
13th Open 1,454 birds,
13th Open Mullingar 1.307 birds
21st Open Thurles 5,194 birds,
21st Open Mallow 3,976 birds,
24th Open Tullamore 5,378 birds,
29th Open Skibereen 1,178 birds.
(Those are just his Open positions)
55. Do you think a pigeon has the capabilities of racing both short and long-distance races? Also, what distance can a pigeon actually still ?RACE? as opposed to homing from any race point?
A. In Northern Ireland no we don?t think a pigeon can win short and long-distance races. We think they are different sets of pigeons to do a separate job. It would be a hell of a pigeon that could do both disciplines VERY WELL (We don?t mean the odd performance here and there). Certainly, down to the south of Ireland (250 miles to us) we expect the birds to go eyeballs out for that journey home.
56. What proportion of you pigeons get better on subsequent trips to the long-distance races and what do you call distance.
A. We can?t answer that with our experience.
57. Which is the more difficult, establishing a team of sprinter?s or distance pigeons and why.
A. In Northern Ireland it?s got to be hard to get a good team of distance pigeons around you because there?s invariably large losses every time you go to France. The thing is, anyone can get a team of sprinter?s around them, but how many can get a GOOD team of sprinters around them. We need to be in a position where every pigeon that we basket to the race has at least a realistic chance of winning the Open. That?s when you know you?ve got strength in depth. Every single pigeon genuinely needs to have the potential to win the Open.
58. Sprinter or distance, there is no difference; it is all in the feeding.
A. If somebody wants to come and fly a team of ?distance pigeons? in the next garden to us and try and compete with them in sprint racing then we?d welcome them with open arms. They are different animals. In the past we?ve had ?distance pigeons? on the garden and they can?t get within 20 minutes of our own pigeons inland. That?s fine, we?d be worried if they were any earlier because they are cut out for a different job.
59. If you could pass on one piece of advice or tip, at this point to fanciers old and young, what would it be?
A. Never accept second best in any regard. We?d rather have 1 good bird that cost us £1,000 than 10 crap ones that cost us £100 each.
60. What problems do you think are most detrimental to race condition in modern day racing, both Old Bird and Young Bird?
A. Some fanciers think that the answer to winning lies in a medicine bottle. It doesn?t. The wins that we get we work bloody hard for. Mis-use of antibiotics is something that has become systematic with some fanciers. Medication CAN help at certain times of year to treat a CERTAIN condition but we?d never treat blind. We know the health of our birds inside out during racing but for 40 weeks of the year our birds get absolutely nothing.
61. How far do you race your yearling?s.
A. The best yearlings will race down to the south of Ireland, so depending on the programme around the 250 miles mark, maybe a touch more. For yearlings that hadn?t excited us they might get a look at Penzance which is about 300 miles to us. For that race, because we live not far off the sea, we?re mapped to about 295 miles of open water!
62. What races do you send your long-distance candidates to before their chosen race.
A. We wouldn?t be qualified to advise on that because we don?t really send to long distance races.
63. Where do you house your widow hens.
A. We don?t have any. Our hens race every week. They are an integral part of the loft.
64. Can you tell the readers your routine for preparing pigeons for the longer races? Do you look forward to the channel racing? A. We focus on 0-250 miles really so we?re not the ones to ask about this.
65. Young bird sickness is a problem; have you had this in your loft and if so, what have you treated them with.
A. For the time we can offer our birds we do keep a very vigorous eye on them when we?re at home. We?re always looking for a problem. Every year I would say the warning signs are there, but we react immediately and it?s never a big problem at the loft. Starving the pigeons for 24 hours to begin with is the first step to addressing YB sickness. Many lofts wait and see if the problem materialises. We don?t we trust our instincts and react immediately. Better to nip it in the bud.
66. Do you race your young birds, if so, how many races, if not why, do you think they are better off in the longer events if they are only raced lightly.
A. The YB go to most races week in week out. Towards the end of the YB season, as the distance increases, we start to put some YB to one side because it?s not worth the risk losing them. In September, in the area that our birds are racing in we know that the Birds of Prey are especially active so our more valued ones aren?t risked.
67. What do you think the sport should do to change things for the better, in relation to your points made a couple of questions ago.
A. What point?
68. Do you use any preventative medication? If a pigeon goes, I?ll do you try to put it right or does the bird have to go.
A. We never treat blind. Don?t get me wrong during the race season we?ll treat for whatever we think we need to treat for, but it?ll be as a result of a diagnosis as opposed to a hunch. The birds get zero medication for 40 weeks of the season and it?s very rare that a pigeon falls ill. If it does that?s Mother Nature giving you a helping hand right there.
Old Cocks Race loft
69. Earlier in the article we discussed the wind direction, do you consider that good pigeons will win in any position.
A. When you fly in large organisations and you sprint then common sense tells you that Mother Nature will have a hand in the result. If you fly in the NIPA and the wind is in the East then the East side will not feature too high in the Open result. By the same token we know that if there?s West in the wind then the East side will start as favourites every time. That?s all though there?s scores of lofts in ?prime position? every week in our organisations and some fantastic fanciers amongst them. If we want to beat them, we have to be better than them that?s the mindset we go to each race with.
70. Some fanciers go out and purchase good quality winning pigeons but never appear to make the grade, why do you consider that this happens.
A. They may have made good purchases but are they making the same basic mistakes? The old saying has some merit to it ?You can buy the pigeon but not the man?. Having said that, anyone who purchases from us we?re always happy to try and help as much as we?re able to.
71. Do you give any special treatments when the pigeons return from the race as a precaution against anything that they may have picked up in the basket?
A. Yes, we?re relentless at this. We send our droppings away to 3 vets every week so if 2 out of the 3 diagnose the same issue then we?ll address it immediately. Because our birds get nothing for 40 weeks of the year then we believe that when we do treat, we get the maximum result from the treatment because we never treat on a hunch.
72. Do you use the darkness system for the young birds, if so for how long and do you think it affects them later in life.
A. Yes, we race our YB on the darkness and we see no adverse reaction in later life. All of our Combine winners and multi-performance pigeons were always raced as darkness youngsters. Once you get into August the advantages that Darkness YB hold over natural YB is obvious. They have 13 hours darkness until Mid-June and then they are taken off.
73. Are there any feeding methods for the young birds i.e. do you break them down, do you keep them hungry for control purposes, do you give them a trapping seed mix. Why is feeding the pigeon?s so complicated or is that the way we make it.
A. We don?t break down and our YB are never hungry. You can?t keep an athlete hungry and expect it to excel in competition. The birds get a treat as they go through the traps and this is brain-washed into them from a very young age. Our Feeding system would be impossible to write down because we adapt it every week depending on the weather and the race that they?ve just had and the race that we?re preparing for. There is always, always, always something being mixed on the feed in the race season. Always.
74. Do you attach any real importance to the pigeon?s wing i.e. back wing, end four flights and do you look at the wing to see if they have cast before a race. Any other comments on the wing.
A. I wouldn?t know what I was looking for so no. Don?t over complicate things
75. If random drugs tests were carried out on your pigeons, would it reveal any substance, illegal or otherwise?
A. We?ve been tested before and it was negative. We can get tested 365 days a year the result will be the same every time.
76. What criteria do you set down for the pigeons you winter with your thoughts on the following seasons racing and breeding?
A. We?re sprinters so our pigeons basically race week in week out all season. To get into the OB team not every YB has to have scored, but we would look and like to have seen some indication of potential somewhere along the line. As for yearlings they won?t get into the team as 2-year old?s unless they?d actually achieved something of note. By the end of the Yearling stage these birds will have had say 16 races or so in their career. A pigeon can be unfortunate once but not 16 times! We?re only interested in finding and working with the absolute elite.
77. Are there any special treatments that you give your birds once the season has finished what do you recommend the readers to do with the birds.
A. Our OB?s get nothing for 40 weeks of then, year in terms of medication. When we?re racing that?s different. We won?t hesitate to treat if we think something is wrong, but to counter-balance that it?s more effective if it?s used sparingly. Hence all winter the birds natural immunity is encouraged to thrive.
78. What were the last four things that you put in your drinking water, when and why and did you notice any benefits.
A. We use a lot of Tollyamin Forte and a lot of PH Control in the racing season. We also use Red Cell and Gemthepax on a regular basis.
79. If you could only give your pigeons one supplement what would it be.
80. Irrespective of how your pigeons have flown, what are your views on the past season whether good or bad or the management of the sport in general.
A. We stay clear of the political and management side of the sport because we have nothing to offer really. We assess our performance each and every week and it?s very rare that we are delighted with how things have gone. If you don?t strive for perfection, you?ll never reach it. I would say it?s only when we set a record that we?re happy but that lasts for 24 hours. You?re only as good as your last race and there?s another race to prepare for.
81. Taking into account distance, which is more difficult racing to your area, is it; a case of a 600ml race is a 600ml race regardless of competition or route.
A. In Northern Ireland any race from France has its obstacles. It?s not the distance, it?s the route. Traditionally there?s loads of races where 90% of the Kings Cup aren?t home in race time. That speaks for itself.
82. Which fancier has influenced you most, in the way in which you fly your pigeons?
A. Rob Fenwick put us on the road to success and we?re now tweaking ?The Pursuit System? each year
83. Which Champion pigeons over the years have left an impression on you and perhaps influenced your direction in the sport.
A. None really.
A pigeon mad Rory Gordon
84. Whenever I have visited a loft-fanciers always look at the pigeon?s eye. Do you consider that the eye has any importance in (a) the breeding, (b) distance races (c) sprint races? (d) The pigeon?s health. Or do you steer clear of the subject and if so why.
A. I?ve always thought it was a lot of balls to be honest but this last few month we think we?re on to something so we?re interested in seeing where this goes
85. Who do you consider being the best fanciers in the Country and for what reasons.
A. In Northern Ireland we admire Jef Greenaway because he can be dangerous from every point in the race calendar. This winter we flew over and met Mark Gilbert. To be honest we always knew he was very good. We under-estimated him because he?s better than that.
86. What do you think can be done to take the sport forward?
A. The biggest issue that we have is Bird of Prey. It?s devastating and it?s getting worse. We fear the RPRA is no match for the RSPB so we?re not sure what we can do to address the issue really.
87. What percentage do you consider it takes to win with racing pigeons for Management and pigeons and why.
A. No races can be won without the perfect marriage of bird and man whether it be sprint or distance. You?re probably looking at greater percentage for the pigeon the more the distance increases but it?s the man that conditions the pigeon remember.
88. What past mistakes have you learned from?
A. As ruthless as we are we now no longer send our elite YB to every race in the YB programme. Once we get into September and we get into Southern Ireland we know that the Birds of Prey are especially active so it?s just not worth the risk.
89. Who or what motivates you to remain successful?
A. We don?t like losing. It?s as simple as that really. If we get beat we work twice as hard the week after.
90. What qualities do you think must be present for a fancier to be classed as a top fancier and at what level must he/she have achieved results to be rightfully so-called a ?Champion?.
A. ?Champion? fanciers rarely have a bad season. They keep re-inventing themselves to keep themselves at the peak of their powers.
91. Do you think winning fanciers should move on from club racing once they have reached a certain level of consistency? Are club performances paramount for personal satisfaction or sales purposes?
A. We never think about Club wins. We don?t wake up on a Saturday wanting to win the Club. We know we have to do that if we want to win the Open but we?re looking at the bigger picture. To begin with we assess our performance at Section level and then Open level. Sometimes it doesn?t matter how good you are the leading birds aren?t in your area especially if you?re racing in the NIPA against say 20,000 birds.
92. To term a phrase are you a professional pigeon fancier and do your circumstances make a big difference.
A. We?re not professional in the sense that we?re not at the lofts all day. We both works, we have 7 children going through various stages of school life and after school clubs etc. We leave the garden in the morning and we?re back at night. But everything else that we do is to the best of our ability. We source the best birds we can afford. We leave no stone unturned in acquiring the best birds we can or learning how to get the best out of them. In that regard we try to adopt a professional approach. We?d love to be at the lofts more, we could apply more attention to detail if we?re around more.
93. You are a successful fancier, there are far too many leaving the sport, to encourage fanciers to either join or stay in the sport what do you think about limiting prizes to two per race per loft. If not Why. If yes Why.
A. This is the sort of attitude that really annoys us. We work really hard with our birds and we try to specialise in getting as many of our birds home as fast as we can as quickly as we can. Some organisations have ?limits? in place but then these birds might claim say 3rd Federation and it could be sold as a 3rd Fed winner and have the card to support it but a mile up the road there?s a bloke who had 10 before it with a higher velocity. How on earth can that be right?
94. Is pigeon racing as a hobby going beyond the average working man? Is it becoming too technical and complicated or can you keep everything simple and still win with the pigeons?
A. You can be successful you just have to be the best that you can be with whatever limitations that you have to work with. Some fanciers are at the lofts all day, some have deeper pockets than others, others have bigger gardens than others. There are so many variables that it?s never going to be ?equal?. We have the space and we invest whatever we can into the birds. Where we suffer is the time that we can give our birds. We have to be the best we can with the time we can offer.
95. What is your view on pigeon "moots" or "panels", are they over played and outdated and what do you think may bring as much or more interest to the quiet season when racing is not taking place?
A. We?re not really a fan of moots and panels and even though it?s nice to be asked to go on them we never do. We find that genuine pigeon men will open themselves up to you once you?ve built the relationship and got some sort of rapport going.
96. What do you think about the vaccination programme for the pigeons and do you think it affects the pigeons long term.
A. We vaccinate what we have to because we have to, but it?s had no detrimental impact at our loft.
97. What do you think of veterinarians in the UK and have you had any dealings with them.
A. We prefer to go abroad because we think they?re better
98. How do you consider that the British sport is going compared to the continentals and do they have any ideas that you think would benefit the sport in the UK?
A. Pigeon racing numbers in the UK are declining but you know what they are in many of the big European countries too. The Barcelona International is often held up as ?the holy grail? of pigeon racing but numbers going to that race aren?t what they used to be.
99. What is your view on pigeon shows and showing?
A. Not for us. We?re happy to make our own judgements on our pigeons.
100. Do you read many magazines/Articles, if so which type of article do you find interesting and why.
A. We work as hard in the winter as we do in the Spring, Summer and Autumn. In the winter we?re making contacts, asking questions, learning about pigeons, systems, medications, racing techniques, breeding techniques. It literally never stops. Like we said earlier we won?t win every week but we can make sure that if we?re beaten it?s not through lack of effort or attention to detail on our part.
101. What aspect of the sport interests you the most?
A. We?re racers. We?d race from the top of the field if we could and we want to be the best that we can be, so it?s all about racing as far as we?re concerned.
102. Is there anything that you do not like about the sport, something that you feel needs changing for the good of the sport?
A. Some fanciers are the salt of the earth and others are jealous. They?ll talk about us and all that?s doing really is trying to sour the hard work that we put in. We work hard with our birds. Our lives are hectic and we give them everything we possibly can. What the critics don?t realise is that it?s their negative talk that fuels us every week. Historically we always raced in the EDC with up to about 5,000 birds or so competing. When we?re at our very best we can get 10, 15, 20 or more birds all arriving together and I think our record was to take 34 of the top 40 positions in the Open of the EDC. Instead of some saying, ?well done the birds came well? we were told ?You wouldn?t get them dropping like that in the NIPA?. Well, when the race conditions are right and our birds are at their best, we?ve proved that we can get them dropping like that in the NIPA too. We?ve taken the top 10 in the NIPA, taken 19 of the top 20 in the NIPA, 29 in the top 32 of the NIPA, 32 in the top 40 (against 22,129 birds) and 30 of the top 46 against 19,146 birds. I think that proves that we are capable of getting them home, flying as a team not individuals. That?s why we call it ?The Pursuit System? it?s all about how they work as a team.
103. If you went into another fanciers loft and were given the opportunity to leave with a pair of pigeons, how confident would you be that you had selected the best pair, or in other words do you consider that you are a good judge of a pigeon.
A. Yes, we?d fancy our chances.
104. Is your loft of pigeons as strong as it was 5yrs ago?
A. We?re stronger; there?s no doubt about that and we have plans in place that if we can carry them out will continue to see us grow in strength. We?re not talking about numbers here. It?s about quality.
105. Do you have any further comments about anything that we may have missed in any area of the sport?
A. Not really thank you for the opportunity and we hope someone somewhere might take something of use from this.