Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

Pigeon Feeding - Feeding to WinDuring the racing season, the main function of food is to provide the fuel for flying. Our common aim is to provide the racing pigeon with the best fuel for race day. To do this consistently we must have a good understanding of the food itself. The following paragraphs will introduce you to the science (or theory) of feeding, but for racing success you must also become expert at the practice (or art) of feeding. Only practice and observation can teach you the art of feeding, but hopefully the methods of feeding described here can help you find the pathway to feeding success.

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

We can only begin the art of good feeding when both the quality of the food is guaranteed and the flock is healthy. A healthy bowel is required before we can test our feeding systems, because an unhealthy bowel fails to deliver the fuel of good grain to the pigeon’s body. Bowel diseases such as E. coli, coccidiosis, worms and wet canker all decrease the amount of nutrients entering the body.

By using the best quality grains and with a healthy race team, the fancier can now think about a racing mix appropriate for his particular family of birds and training methods. The mix chosen must provide a good balance of protein (amino acids) and for this to be achieved at least 8 different grains must be used. After this balance is achieved, the energy content of the mix becomes the most important part of successful feeding.

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

The feed system provides the race team with the correct energy levels for training and racing. The goal of feeding is to provide the training and racing pigeon with exactly enough (not too much and not too little) fuel (energy in the food) for sustained flight (loft exercise or racing). Of course, the fuel requirements of the training pigeon vary enormously from day to day. It is the constantly changing energy requirements of the competition pigeon that makes feeding such a challenge to even the best fanciers. The competition pigeon will not perform to its fitness level when the “energy balance” is incorrect. The “energy balance” must be assessed short term (daily) and long term (weekly) with fit flocks during the race season, because the fitness level will drop both when too much and too little energy is supplied. During young bird training special attention must be made to prevent depletion of the energy reserves in the liver and muscle.

Overfeeding relative to workload (positive energy balance) renders the race team less competitive because of excess baggage (“leady”). Excess energy is stored as fat with subsequent loss of buoyancy and fitness. It is well to remember that the excess energy of mixes which are too high in protein (legumes) relative to the work load will be stored as fat.

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

Underfeeding relative to workload (negative energy balance) renders the race team less competitive because of “depowering”. Feed systems low in energy relative to the workload of the race team will result in the depletion of the energy reserves in the liver, fat and muscle.

The fancier can recognise a race team that is in a negative energy balance by the following signs:

No wing flapping in the early morning or after feeding.
Disinterest in leaving loft or toss basket, lower lid laziness etc.
The race team in negative energy balance (inadequate energy intake relative to the workload) is susceptible to illness, especially “respiratory” diseases.

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win

Buoyancy
Most fanciers understand the importance of buoyancy for success, but few understand the best way to achieve this in their race teams. Buoyancy is best achieved by supplying the flock with enough feed (a positive energy balance) to promote vigorous loft flying (or tossing) in order to maximise lean body mass (i.e. muscle) and minimise body fat. Instead many fanciers believe that the best path to buoyancy is to restrict caloric (energy) intake (feed less) in order to lose excess weight and thereby produce the buoyancy that we see with top form. However, buoyancy is not only weightlessness, but also power, and the buoyancy of fitness only comes when lean body mass is maximised. The restriction of calories in an effort to produce buoyancy in fact lowers the fitness level of the flock and renders it susceptible to illness. Severe caloric restriction will cause a loss of not only body fat but also lean body mass (muscle) with the accompanying loss of fitness and power.

Pigeon Feeding – Feeding to Win by Dr. Rob Marshall

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