Less is more. That is the credo of Markus Neeb, who year after year flies tops with just a handful of excellent pigeons A breeder apart, who goes his own way With courage to change, focus of the essential and a clear direction Markus Neeb, the pigeon magician from the Westerwald The Neeb loft has been a byword for great success for many years now, and does so with just a small basket We had an excellent season again with a total racing performance of about 74% We placed 209 pigeons in 13 races and won 149 prizes That ade the season another good one for us Per the status now, we are 10th German regional association champ, took 2nd in the flying community championship of 4 regional clubs with 90+ members, became regional club champ, scored 5x 1st in competition, also 1st in the final 600km in the flying community In St. Pölten we won 5 prizes with 6 birds Which method do you use for the racing pigeons and why? We use the classic widowhood method with cocks, and with just a small stock, because we believe that if you train for total widowhood, you need much more time – the cocks and hens need to be trained separately Since we have a company of 10 to run, our work week is around 60 hours Because of that our time for the pigeons is very limited, which is why we have a small stock of widows We started the season this year with 21 widows Since we always have a small racing team, we always have around 20 racing pigeons each year. The percentage of yearlings in the racint team is usually around 50% That means 10-12 old widows or 10-12 yearling cocks We race to the southeast. If you have a yearling cock or a yearling that races to the southeast and wins 6-8 prizes, then you have good substance for the next racing season How many youngsters are bred each year for your own needs? I have a total of 21 breeding pairs and breed around 100 youngsters for myself As I train only cocks, I mostly give the young hens to known breeders or friends, who then train them. For my own needs I keep around 50 young cocks I start the racing season with the youngsters Which criteria do you use to select the youngsters? I make it easy for myself when it comes to selecting Dr. Fernand Marien does the selection for me – he is one of the greatest pigeon experts of all in my opinion, and we have also been friends for 30 years now I just let him select the youngsters, regardless of how they perform in races The successes have shown that he always has a magic touch. Yes, for me Fernand is simply the #1 pigeon whisperer He takes a pigeon in his hand and right away he says “That is a good one or that is a bad one.” Which traits in the youngsters do you pay particular attention to? With the youngsters I pay particular attention to nice, silky plumage, it has to be really smooth I have never seen a young bird or even an old bird with plumage like straw The bone structure has to be relatively strong If I could choosea pigeon, then I would prefer one that has a deep sternum and a much longer muscle attachment In my opinion they are far better suited for 400, 500 or 600km I do not believe, that you should select youngsters just by performance It is more important that they are

in good health in general and do not always return late from the races Mass arrivals of young birds say nothing about their quality Lineage basically is of no importance at all for me, as I say, no one breeds 10% good ones That’s why even the supposed best breeding pairs can produce bad youngsters I’ve had good young birds who also were good old birds And vice versa I’ve had young birds who won one, two or even no prizes at all But Fernand than said during the selection in autumn “That is a good one, you can keep it.” In the end his opinion counts if a bird is to be kept I have taken some of the best youngsters in the regional club out of the races because he said there are no good old birds, also the opposite I would say his hit ratio is above 90% How are the youngsters trained and prepared for racing? Training the youngsters has become even more important in recent years, in my opinion. You have to start off very gently. With the youngsters , I begin with 1km Denis Faber showed that beautifully, he even does the first training flight from his property Youngsters especially have to be trained a lot and often, for short distances, too, just to make them confident Once the youngsters can properly circe the loft for 30 or 45 minutes, then I start the training flights Prior to the first youngster race, I will have certainly taken the youngsters away some 20 times However, only oncefor 80km, the other distances are all shorter They should circle the loft mornings at least 30 minutes and evenings, too, for at least 45-60 minutes As soon as they start pairing, my youngsters are separated, the cocks from the hens. The young bird loft has been set up specifically so that I can separate them From the time they are separated, the young cocks then train evenings with the widows. That hase the positive side effect in that the widows also get to fly around a bit longer in the evening What is special about the construction of your young bird loft? There aren’t that many special things about it I chose a Cox loft because in my opinion Friedhelm Cox builds the best pigeon lofts And I discussed things with Friedhelm This young bird loft here came out of that, because it has completely normal, simple ventilation that can be controlled with sliding panels But they stay the same with me 365 days a year Back here I have a young bird perch y with young bird boxes an a coveyor belt for droppings to make work easier In spring the lofts are darkened with these front-mounted roller shutters, and the pigeons have maximal 9 hours of light. Up until June 21 Frome June 21, the daylight lamps are switched on for the pigeons. the lights stay on 16 hours a day They are on all the time from morning to evening That does not mean that they are just turned on earlier in the morning and then switched off at some point ant then turned on again in the evening, but that the lights are on for a full 16 hours. As I don´t know if it will rain during the day, and for the light to remain constant, the are on all the time Here I have two pigeons I use to lure the youngsters returning from a race I take them out front near the house When the first pigeons appear in the sky, I let them fly from there As a rule they fly directly to the landing board and the pigeons that are in the air follow directly behind, straight to the antennas, and are thus registered much more quickly I find it particularly fascinating with Markus Neeb that his racing pigeons enjoy flying about freely the whole year round, even in winter, and that he starts challenging them very early in the year With us, pigeon racing is carried out differently than it is usual. We let the pigeons out every day, even in winter when it is -20° or snowing, they always get to fly around freely Because of that when spring comes they are in good shape I usually make the first training flight at the beginning of February, when the pigeons are paired, so that I can train them for the sport. This year I did their first training flight on Feb. 6 or 7., I believe. There was still 15-20cm snow on the ground here

How are the widows trained prior to the race? This year I took my pigeons away myself around 15 times before the first race, starting with 5km. The farthest training flight I did privately was 80km Before the first race especially, private training is very important, since I believe that the pigeons need to be retrained every year. That makes training flights very inevitable, yet the population of predator birds makes training flights more difficult, of course How long are the racing pigeons trained at home each day? The widows are trained twice daily They are let out mornings around 7am to fly 20 minutes or so. Bettina then brings them in From 6pm in the evening, the widows fly for 40-50 minutes The pigeons need to be conditioned and long flights do not play such a major role as quick flights Thus they are let out mornings only for some 20 minutes, so that they then fly fast In the evening they can do a bit more for stamina The past two years I have not done private training flights during the week, since my schedule allows me time for training only during the evening and the population of predator birds has grown such that the loss during evening training flights is simply to great. So I have now stopped with the flights during the week Pigeons making it into the racing loft are youngsters that have passed the young bird programme and also Fernand Marien’s selection Their lineage and performance in youngster races play no role at all No. 1021 is a yearling This year he has 13/13 with 1,000+ ace points He is a grandchild of BAK 17 – Fernand had a daughter BAK 17 from Marcel Aelbrecht I have a son from her that has produced two real toppers at the moment The best racer in recent years is No. 484. He’s been racing three years, taking 36 prizes and almost 3,000 ace points He is an original from Fernand, from one of Fernand`s racing hens What are the key characteristics of your pigeons? I think anyone who has ever been in my loft and had a bird in their hand will find that all the pigeons have super plumage. That is one of the main traits we look for Great plumage, strong bone structure and relatively soft muscles so that they can easily fly 400, 500 or 600km Deep pigeons have an advantage there, since they have a longer muscle attachment than normal pigeons do How do you recognise form in a pigeon? Pigeons should basically always be in good condition, be in decent form I personally believe that super form comes in the loft once the first flight feathers have dropped I prefer it when the feathers fall out at the end of May, beginning of June, and then there is normally super form in the loft The pigeons’ plumage becomes even smoother When you hold it in your hand, your hands become white from the feather dust and all The pigeons are then really in super form, I think I like to see during the evening training flights when they approach in a wide front and then individually fly away again There you can see that they are generally in super form The fatty spots in the feathers are due to the pigeons having had a good training session that day The faster and harder they fly, the larger the fatty spots in the feathers That is also a sign of form The pigeons here as a rule always have flake-free brests and always look good They have nice rosy skin That’s probably due to using these heated stones in the loft, which keep the pigeons in relatively the same form the year round How many compartments are in the racing loft? As I only have a small racing team of around 20 widows, this racing loft here where we are would theoretically be enough, but here in front is a small compartment

where I normally put yearlings that are not among the top favourites The top ones, the supposed top ones, are here in this compartment Why do you enjoy pigeon racing with a small team? The beauty of the game the way we do it is that the cocks have a completely different type of flying behaviour on the day than the hens Also the behaviour of the cocks in the loft is completely different from that of the hens I like it if I can fight a bit with one bird or the other to awaken territorial behaviour in the bird That is completely different than with the hens I believe that if I would race hens, I would have huge problems, because I would feed them far too well and their racing performance would not be as good as with the cocks How does Markus Neeb stand out from other pigeon fanciers? The biggest difference is that the pigeons here fly free every day Now especially the pigeons usually fly free from 8am to 8pm Because of that they are certainly in a position to better deal with predator bird problems than pigeons that have limited free flight or have been cooped for months The animal’s instinct to become used to the danger of predator birds or deal with it, is certainly higher than if they had been cooped up for months That’s the big difference here One particular characteristic of Markus is that once he has something in his head, he goes through with it You only have to look at his loft: very extraordinary, and that is quite interesting We spent a lot of time with Rudi Heinen, Fernand Marien and Friedhelm Cox in planning the pigeon loft The result was a loft with a constant climate, which had something to do with these poplar plywood panels that are very good at absorbing moisture and releasing it again The loft is completely insulated Thisprovides for a very constant climate, I have temperature fluctuations between night and day here of a maximum 4-5° That is, of course, excellent for the birds’ condition Spring-time temperature fluctuations play no role at all in the loft How does the ventilation of the racing lofts work? The ventilation works like this: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the air is sucked up via a 150mm pipe by an extractor fan. Fresh air gets in through gaps under the windows or door The air is then extracted above through this 150mm pipe, which has two vents connected to it in each loft The volume was calculated so that the air is guaranteed to be circulated at least 3-5 times per hour Is a special lighting programme used? Yes, light is key for the birds’ condition The lighting is switched on from the beginning of April, sunrise to sunset Every Sunday the time is reset up until June 21, that is, the longest day, shortest night I keep this June 21 up to the last race and it is only after the last race that the lighting period is then reduced to get the pigeons back to their normal rhythm That means that I keep the pigeons on June 21 for six weeks That keeps them in shape much longer, and is linked in a way to the pigeons’ hormone balance These are Röhnfried daylight tubes I don’t know much about them, but the lights have a certain light-wave spectrum and don´t flicker Neon tubes normally flicker and that is not so good for the pigeons’ eyes It is better to have more expensive, but better lights from Röhnfried Why are there no boxes with conveyor belts for droppings in the widowhood loft? Boxes with conveyor belts for droppings would make work much easier, but if I use those here, I would have a vent and would be afraid of there being a draught If I don’t use such boxes, then each widow

has a more pleasant climate in its box, which is why I don’t use them The heated box is there, because there is fresh grit and mineral powder from Fernand Marien every day Grit and mineral powder contain salt, which very quickly draws moisture Thanks to the heating element in the bottom of this box, the products always stay dry and don´t clot up I find it very, very important that they are always dry so that no fungi or bacteria can colonise there This is a small widowhood loft used for yearling cocks Should the large widowhood loft become to full, or if for me personally there are too many widows sitting in the large loft, this is where the “reserves” are put They than have more room in this small widowhood loft here in front The loft has a total of 28 boxes Of these 28 boxes, a maximum of 7 or 8 are occupied for the race this is actually my main widowhood loft, specifically set up to face south so that when the sun shines it warms up quickly Here’s where the top birds sit Mainly old racing pigeons are the ones in this loft, because the climate is better than in the small widowhood loft And the racing performance shows that the loft is functioning outstandingly What do you like about this pigeon, Markus? It has great balance and isincredibly well encased in the pelvic girdle, strong bone structure beautiful in itself, and it is a long pigeon with a long muscle attachment Plus… a great shining eye, intelligent look All the pigeons have excellent smooth plumage, and as I said nice pink soft muscles The pigeon colony in the Neeb loft is formed above all by a very strict, very hard selection This is No. 868, he flew 1st in competition in his first race this year He is also a real swift one Every time I put him in, I have nominated him for the championships He has super smooth plumage, really beautiful, long wing tips He is also motivated by the territory he has Why is the Neeb loft always so successful? That is the result of the search for absolutely super pigeons Success in pigeon racing comes only from super pigeons not mediocre ones Super pigeons require, of course, super care Röhnfried helps me provide for the pigeons Which three Röhnfried products could you no longer do without? Top priority is Carni-Speed Carni-Speed for me is crucial Last year I made the mistake of not giving the youngsters any Carni-Speed for the young bird race An unforgivable mistake The pigeons sometimes returned from hot races and fell on the landing board with cramped feed And that’s the thing If you always give them Carni-Speed, that will never happen That’s why this year not only the widows get Carni-Speed, but the youngsters, too Second is Avidress Plus Since I have been using Avidress Plus, my breeding pigeons or my pigeons in general have not had to have any more canker treatment And third in any case is Taubengold The breeding pigeons get Taubengold among other things on their feed almost daily That is for smooth plumage, not only for the breeding pigeons, but also partly responsible for the youngsters in my opinion I recently had problems again with young bird sickness. When I do start

feeding them again, the pigeons always get Winput at their first meal Just pure Winput. Because it is easily digested and it strengthens and boosts the immune system a bit And then, of course, Entrobac, too, which the pigeons absolutely need after young bird sickness. For the racing pigeons the season starts with me at the beginning of April From the beginning of April, at least 4 weeks prior to the first race, I start using Carni-Speed Carni-Speed is actually a product I would highly recommend to breeders who keep their pigeons indoors every day in winter, not letting them out till February or March, to promote gat burning since carnitine does that. And this is why breeders who keep their pigeons in in winter should use Carni-Speed in any case The pigeons also get Avidress Plus as well as Kräuter-Mix I give that to the racing pigeons, too, from time to time, plus some of Fernand Marien’s products How do you take care of the pigeons after a difficult race? My pigeons are basically given feed extremely rich in energy – they get Mifuma feed Jürgen Vedder convinced me in spring to switch to Mifuma. I have to admit, the decision was absolutely right My pigeons always get plenty to eat, in the afternoon they get an extra portion of seeds 5g per bird Before being let out in the evening, they get a cheese-peanut mix, 4g per bird Every evening they eat their fill This year prior to the 600km race, I got up at 4am and switched on the lights for the pigeons, I then fed them around 6am so that they would have a bit to eat before beeing transported As we were driven to the liberation site one the day of transport and the pigeons in principle had not other chance to cope with the 600km if they had eaten, I just tried to give them as much energy as possible on the day of transport Which products do you use especially for the breeding pigeons? Very important for the breeding pigeons is Avidress Plus. Since breeding pigeons drink a lot of water, they are given Avidress Plus daily The advantage of that, of course, is that you have absolutely no problem with canker and I have not had to do anything more at all against canker with the breeding pigeons for at least 15 or even 18, 20 years Then the pigeons get Taubengold almost every day Thanks to that they have very good plumage, and my hope is that the youngsters also get better plumage from it than if they had not had Taubengold Crucial for the breeding pigeons are the excellent grit mixes from Röhnfried With the breeding pigeons I use this Taubenfreund Grit with anise, Expert-Mineral and the Premium Expert-Mineral breeding mix I think Röhnfried’s grits or grit mixes are just superb because the pigeons really like them Giving them gritsin particular is probably underestimated by many breeders At least once a week I give the breeding pigeons completely new grit, and the racing pigeons also get fresh grit daily Markus is very meticulous when it comes to dealing with his pigeons, just as in his job, he has very high standards which are then fulfilled I always used to say, “I think no one breeds 10% good ones.” Until a couple of years ago when Ad Schaerlaeckens had an article in the pigeon newspaper where he said no one breeds 5% good ones Since then I am of the opinion Ad Schaerlaeckens is more right than I am Something Günter Prange says is, “Every year you need to breed two good ones and every three years a good breeding pigeon, then you will alwaysbe at the top.” Which pigeons make it into Markus Neeb’s breeding loft? The only pigeons that make it into my breeding loft are those that flew 1st in competition while in the racing loft, and themselves are pigeons from absolute top performers. That is, offspring of ace pigeons or siblings of ace pigeons I don’t want any performance pigeons of the grandchild or great-grandchild generations For instance, from Robert Borowitz I got Goldtanja, who last year as a youngster

flew 583 ace points in 6 races I want to be as close to the performance as possible and I would never take a pigeon from somewhere that is the grandchild or great-grandchild of a performance pigeon When choosing breeding pigeons, do you pay attention to lineage, body type or performance? Just pure performance The pigeons coming from super performance pigeons, also have in general good traits, such as good bone structure, super plumage. Super plumage is essential, everything starts with that. With the plumage It has to be silky-smooth, sleek I have never seen a good pigeon with plumage like straw that was a good bird Those pigeons don’t exist. As a rule good pigeons a good wing, and a good eye or beautiful eye as well. I don´t think much of every eye theory, but I still like seeing a beautiful eye Pigeon eyes must shine and be vibrant Good birds do not have a dull eye According to which criteria do youpair up the breeding birds? Just randomly When I pair the breeding pigeons – I do this usually on Nov. 30 – I go into the hen loft, where the breeding hens sit, take a basket I have 21 pairs, so I take 21 hens I start with the first hen I take out of the basket and think: Which cock can you pair this hen with now? And then it’s that hen’s turn and the 21st left in the basket goes to the last cock available So in principle it is pure random pairing You could also draw lots The chances of breeding a good bird are just as high What has been your experience with this method of breeding? Since I breed only from performance pigeons and as close to the performance as possible, I think that every bird here is in a position to breed good birds. That is why I can pair any hen to any cock and the chances of breeding good ones from them is the same in all cases That is why the breeding loft is built so openly, to get the birds’ resistance back to normal That’s why it is completely open in the front, so that even in winter when it is -20°, the pigeons have to withstand -20° The breeding loft has 7 compartments, so that once a week each compartment is washed down Each compartment has 3 boxes, the boxes are divided as such because with two pairs I had problems with fertilization in that many eggs were not fertilized With three pairs, the problem is relatively small From time to time an egg is unfertilized because the pigeons don’t give each other the requisite peace But overall it is very easy to handle and for me the pigeons are also very easy to pair with another If I had a larger compartment, it would be relatively difficult for me to pair them with another as I would not have the time to change pigeons 3 or 4 times a day When building the breeding loft, which materials did you most consider? To me the key thing in the construction of pigeon lofts is that a lot of wood is used First, because I deal well with wood, and secondly, because wood is hygroscopic, it easily absorbs moisture and releases it again That gives an indoor climate that is always very good in pigeon lofts where a lot of wood is used There are drinking water warmers On the warmers are just normal plastic drinkers filled with grit and mineral powder As in the racing loft, so no fungi or bacteria or viruses can colonise in the damp environment Thus the drinking water warmers to keep the grit and minerals always nice and dry Which breeding pigeons form the foundation of the loft and which families do they come from? The line that has been producing super pigeons the longest is the one from my No. 119, who in 1992 was 6th National Ace Cock of Germany Every year from that line some really good birds or super pigeons are bred, such as No. 1068 with Hans-Paul Eßer – with him she flew regional wins twice and is one of his best breeding hens. My current to performers here in the breeding loft are No. 9202, who has flown 7x 1st with me, and

a sister of Fernand Marien’s national ace pigeon, who herself took 2nd in the National Argenton. Or, from Fernand I currently have Florian Junior, who was one of his best breeding cocks for years That means I also get some proven breeding pigeons from Fernand Marien, which then breed some good birds with me This is our No. 484, he’s an original Marien bird, stemming from one of Fernand’s good racing hens The past three years he has flown for 36 prizes: as a yearling of 13/12, last year of 13/12, and this year again of 13/12 This year he received 1,100+ ace points He also flew a 1st in competition and based on the total number of prizes and ace points, he is our best racing pigeon at the moment Here is our No. 1021, our best racer this year He flew 13/13, he flew 1st in the final in the flying community and 4th in the regional club He has flown a total of 1,003 ace points He stems from an original Marien bird that is from a daughter of BAK 17 These pigeons seem to be just the right ones in our programme, especially for the 400, 500, 600km Here we have our No. 449, he has flown 4x 1st up to now with more than 10 prizes in the Top 10 He is from Günter Prange’s No. 330 line, from which I had an outstanding breeding hen, No. 1480 On the dam side he goes back to our old line 917 x 553, with wich we had the 6th National Ace Cock in Germany in 1992 This is our No. 304, he is new in the breeding loft He switched from the racing loft to the breeding loft He has also flown 4x 1st in competitions, has been our best in the regional club and ranks high in the regional club. He stems from the line No. 78, 2nd National Ace Pigeon of Germany, and Rudi Heinen’s ace pigeon line This is the best pigeon we’ve ever had: Our No. 9202 has flown 1st in seven competitions in his career. He also goes back to Günter Prange’s No. 330 line, his dam is a daughter of No. 330, No. 1480, who has produced sensationally good offspring for us The sire is an original Marien, from which we have also bred some really good birds, from Netje-Kampion One of the best breeding cocks with Fernand Marien in recent years is Florian Junior here He’s been with us in the breeding loft since last winter He is a full brother of Super 53 from the Atema brothers and and has 10x 1st in competition We already have a yearling from him, which has demonstrated its prowess this year This is the sister, Dianneke, currently our best breeding hen She brought in the 2nd National Argenton in the Netherlands She stems from Jul, one of the phenomenal sires with Fernand Marien I wish in pigeon racing that focus would be more on the pigeon as a creature and that everything would not always be only about the championships – that the pigeons are not just seen as a work tool or a means to an end. Rather that they be regarded as a creature once again One should take them into account when it comes to the races and decide for the good of the bird, instead of organising and carrying out races for the good of the championships where in the end the creature falls by the wayside. Those are things that we can do without in pigeon racing

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