Since I have started up "Winning" I don’t really have the time to be that active anymore and post reactions to discussion groups. For quite some time I read the discussions on the South-African SAPML, where the past week the discussion was on the subject of experts. Better described: pigeon fanciers with quite some knowledge in the field of selection/grading. Most of the time the reactions on the work of the expert are negative. One likes to tell about how many times the expert was wrong in his judgement.
Bertus Nel started his contribution to SAPML the same way. But turned it around by stating the expert he had on his loft scored, besides 2 wrong judgements, 128 on 130 possible. He and I thought this was an exceptionable high percentage: 98.46%
To be able to score that high certain things must have been around:
*many good birds
*very good care resulting in excellent condition
*a fancier that knows what he is doing
*When these things are present it is a lot easier for the expert, but still the percentage is very good and very high.
Bertus also mentioned what a well known big Belgian name stated when he told a reporter that he was a very happy man when he bred five good ones out of a total of 100 youngsters. Bertus thought this number of good birds was low. But I think the word "good" makes the difference here.
If the Belgian champ meant that those 5 good ones were 5 good racers, then I agree with Bertus that the Belgian champ should go back to school again. But if he meant that the 5 good ones all 5 were good breeders I would like to exchange lofts with him right away. To breed on a yearly basis 5 good breeders I think is exceptional. I can’t manage this.
In my opinion a good breeder is a pigeon to breed very well over several generations and that with different partners. Such birds are rare and you understand now why I think 5/100 is high. I think this is what the champ meant and if I’m right I’m curious to know what the name of that Belgian champ is…
Alright, I went off the subject experts. To get that title a pigeon fancier that dares to go and select elsewhere needs to have a great deal of knowledge and experience. That means: Study. Visit lofts. Look into strains and study how they were formed. Visit auctions. And handle many, many birds and being able to store the feeling, the knowledge and the experience.
The best expert in my opinion is Piet de Weerd, a man who has a photographic memory plus the gift to combine data quickly and draw conclusions. Those are rare but exceptional gifts.
Most experts are not so gifted. Most of times they make use of knowledge of people and with this in hand they often are able to pick the best ones out. And they tell the owner of the birds what he really wants to hear: "You have a lot of very good birds in your lofts." That is a very positive message in the ear of the fanciers and is being told to everyone willing to listen to it. But except from a good feeling the expert did not help us advance in the way we wanted it.
In my opinion Piet de Weerd is top of the bill. Why?? Simple: because he dares to point out the best breeders. And to pair them up. This suggestion really can help us move forward. Shortly after his leave fanciers do not feel good, because most of the birds were not found suitable for the breeding loft. But the feeling changes if after a couple of years. The offspring of Piet’s suggestions start to devastate the competition. For most fanciers racing is number one in sport. I think they are very wrong in this. Breeding is the true number one. Piet has studied all his life the characteristics influencing the breeding and this has made his name in the sport forever.
Most fanciers don’t want to dive so deep into the matter to gather knowledge, or are simply not able to detect the important links. Of course the last is also possible. That’s why fanciers often concentrate on a few not really important matters. And are easily being fooled… Without real knowledge one is an easy target for impressions and PR, paid for or not. Strains. Fashion. Pedigrees. Etc. You’ll understand what I mean. And each time you fall for it again…
Last Sunday evening I was phoned by a fancier from the southern part of Holland who races in strong competition. On a sale he had bought a bird at a cheap price being bred by myself. And he wanted to know what strain it was.. He could not understand why the bird was so cheap, as to his idea it was a good one… And the funny thing was he did not have the slightest idea to whom he was talking to.. I left it that way and told him the bird had a lot of pure Janssen blood in it and the father raced very well for me. Then the conversation ended.
I could not understand at all what goes into the minds of pigeon fanciers. A week before the phone call I had visited the man who conducted the sale in question. My visit was about a total round of youngsters plus a series of late breds out of the best racers of my own loft a couple of years ago purchased by Bram Kooy of Heinenoord. I did my very best to select the best for him. Bram wanted them to be crossed into his family of Van De Wegen’s (Aarden’s) in order to get some extra speed into them. Of course everyone is okay with the fact the 15 birds that clicked into his family stayed in Heinenoord. The rest were put up for sale. I handled them all and found 20 birds on a total of 80 being worth while. Out of those 20 I purchased, 4 were out of pairs I cannot put together again because one of the partners died. During the auction I was surprised that fanciers talked to each other about the fact the birds went away so cheap and simply were forgetting to raise their hand for a bid. I think they could not tell the difference between good and bad, because there were real chances for all experts.
I think most fanciers present were not experts, but "experts". Or they were on a holiday. No, not quite true. When the 80 Van Breemen’s were sold another 20 from the lofts of Cees and Manus Bosua from Dordrecht came under the hammer of the auctioneer and guess what happened: prices went straight up! What made the difference for the "experts"?? Right: the PR. Not on Bram Kooy’s sale. He was honest and left it over to the buyers’ decision. But to the PR in the magazines beforehand. One fancier loves PR and for another one, it is not important… But these things are a clear guideline for "experts". Offspring of PR-loving fanciers sell more easily. These you must have in your loft so you can get some of your investments back. I think it is a shame real quality doesn’t seem to be the issue anymore on sales. Money has taken over. But who the hell am I to state this..??
I was never impressed by the big names. My best purchases often came out of small and not so known or totally unknown lofts. But I recognized breeding qualities in the birds offered for sale. In a well-oiled PR publicity machine I don’t recognize breeding qualities. But it is possible. But to be able to detect that you need to have the knowledge to pick the birds out with breeding qualities. And birds off an unknown loft are often not liked and cheap. In the winter of 1986 I bought at the total auction of a certain Willem Beerda from Oranjewoud (Holland) a pair of Tournier’s for not even a $1000. They produced in 1987 the 1st National Ace Young and one year later the 2nd National Orleans against 28,500 birds. Two years later the pair was purchased by John & Benny de Jonge from Canada where the offspring still keeps the fancy at a distance. No need to say that purchase was worth it into all possible directions.
When pigeons do not race for some reason and you hold a sale the fanciers are not interested at all in the first place. Birds are being sold for nickels and dimes. How is it possible birds stop performing or don’t breed well? The loft does matter a lot. Move a successful racing team into a new loft and a big chance success is blown into the wind. Do the same with good breeders and they are not able to pass on natural vitality. Also for successful breeding the lofts matter. Sometimes even the nestbox… If success is disturbed somehow, then some important characteristics are present, but they are simply being surpressed. When you are an expert then certain circumstances offer real chances. If you concentrate on the market alone, better to stay home or drink a beer with the lads at the bar.
A lot of the well-known lofts own their fame to a favorable location. And they know it. This means that experts also must have a thorough understanding of the racing scenery. Wind, weather and location do matter a lot. But they don’t influence real quality. The basket will decide the fanciers say. A known statement. But not out of the future. Is the race basket really that honest?? I dare to disagree and to trust my personal knowledge and experience. And you???? What about your knowledge and experience????
Expert or "expert" that is the question I ask you personally….
Steven van Breemen