Summer 2022 Training News

It is now two days after the very difficult training flight for the summer 2022 team, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what went wrong, the pigeons are in good health and physical condition as can be seen from Dr van Zyl’s report attached to this email, I took the pigeons to be tested last week Saturday and the report is attached to this mail.

I have said this way too often the last few years “we encountered a hard training flight”, I follow a lot of olr’s across the globe and yes unfortunately the norm is a higher percentage of losses the last few years. I get asked the question what do I think went wrong and generally my answer is I do not know because I really do not know for a fact however I have my suspicion and would like to share it with you all and no this is not an excuse. For those who know me well would tell you it hurts me when we have a training flight from these shorter distances where we suddenly have unexplainable losses. I hate losing pigeons and always try my best to not lose them till we get down the line where losses do happen. But in the last 22 years I have had a few very bad training flights and still do not know what went wrong on most of them. The one thing however that remains true every single racing season is we race the pigeons that is in the loft and not the pigeons that got lost!

So after having a few pigeons reported from members of the public north of the lofts and two pigeon sitting close to the quarantine station I thought about the following the last few days and this is my view on losses on the early training flights, I think that first of all we do not have sufficient time in the summer race series the last few years to settle the international pigeons as they are adult pigeons that have been in three different lofts by the time they arrive at Allflight which is then the 4th loft they have to re-orientate to. This started a few years ago when the new rules and regulations for quarantine across the globe was implemented that the pigeons had to do 30 days quarantine before they were shipped to South Africa where they then had to do another 30 days quarantine here before they allowed to come to the loft at Allflight from where they must race. Unfortunately the 60 days quarantine period is never just 60 days but rather due to various factors out of our control it ends up being 70 days or 80 days etc. I am not looking for any excuse but I am trying to give my view and help you the fancier understand what we are up against here at the loft. Let’s not even talk about the impact of Covid as well on imports etc.

I think and I saw this 20 years ago at Sun City some of these pigeons will never settle at the new loft, I remember a checker pied hen that was shipped from Germany in the years 1999/2000 to the Million $ race, after being soaped and let out to settle in the new environment she used to walk out of the lofts in the morning and went to go sit on a piece of rock that was sticking out on the lawn in front of the top loft near the office, there she would sit and flap her wings from 6am till 10am when they were chased back into the lofts, this happened every day  for the 3 weeks they were let outside soaped. We washed off the soap and the first day out without soaped wings she did exactly the same walked out, sat on the rock and started flapping her wings but that day she could fly up and so she did, she flew up and two other pigeons followed her into the skies, she did not even make a circle around the lofts but headed due west with the two other pigeons following her and that morning was the last we ever saw of her and the two that followed her. The pigeons those days only came from their loft where they were bred, onto the airplane and delivered at the lofts at Sun City no additional lofts and quarantine. This happens to about 10% of the international pigeons that gets sent to the loft they never settle and will never settle at a “new” loft. Unfortunately they sometimes take local pigeons with them on this journey to find their birth place which then also go missing.  

Once we have the soap removed we experience those early losses around the lofts and then loft training starts and the pigeons start getting fitter, my guess is that some of the international pigeons wait till they feel fit enough to try and return to one of the lofts they have been in before being delivered at Allflight. Once we start training them on the road they get fitter and as soon as they hit a tough training flight they seem to try and make it back to one of the other lofts again. Whenever they decide to try and go home or to one of the quarantine lofts they take one or two pigeons with them. So hats off to the pigeons that do stay and then race well under these extreme conditions of quarantine and trainings they truly are a special kind of racing pigeon. We got thought as youngsters by the old hands that our babies must be out and in the air circling your race loft within the first 3 months at least, well the international entrants get weaned then sent to quarantine about a month or 6 weeks after weaning when they are strong enough to handle the quarantine then they spend another 2 and a half months sitting in quarantine first abroad and then in South Africa before they are allowed outside, soaped or in a net for another 2 to 4 weeks. So they are about 6 months old before they are outside of the loft free to start flying and training. I have seen some local fanciers now either train their pigeons to about 30km or let them fly around the lofts first before sending them to the lofts as well.

So what have I observed and would like to happen in future is that we need to get the pigeons shipped to South Africa 5 to 7 weeks earlier to give the loft staff at least a 30% better chance of homing them. It will be very interesting to see how the imports fair in the winter series where we will have a lot more time to settle them and get them used to the loft before the loft and road training will start. In the winter race season we can easily move the first race 3 weeks later if we have to so let us see when we have an extra bit of time.

Just a quick calendar of how it used to work pre the new quarantine regulations:

Intake was from 15 May to 15 August, the last international pigeons were received at the lofts by 10 August every season. They were all soaped and let outside for a good 3 weeks to 5 weeks to settle down and get familiar with the area the loft were in. by 20 September they were free to fly and slowly forced to fly and train around the lofts for about 3 weeks. This means from 15 October they were taken out on training flights so that by 15 November they were at 100km’s at least. The final of middle January then was not a problem as they had 4 and a half months of training behind them, now we have less than 3 months to get them from training around the lofts to the final and we need to get in one more moth in future to be fair on every participant in the race, be it the pigeons, the breeders and the loft staff. I hope that this perhaps give some of you some valued insight into the happenings at Allflight Carnival Loft.

Once the rains which we are thankful for stops we will be back on the road and the remaining pigeons will be pushed further everyday so we can get to the 200km mark in about 1 month from now if not sooner!

All the best and thank you to each and every fancier who supports us!  Herman