News and Updates
May-31-2017
MAY 31ST UPDATE

The 2017 Gold Country Challenge is now closed to new entries and we ended up in the mid 400's which was our goal and a comfortable number for the loft.  Thank You to everybody for supporting the race again or for the first time in 2017.

 
We pulled the 10th flight on about 250 pigeons last week and another group will be done in coming weeks.  When Jon pulled the 10th flight a physical inventory and live clocking was done on all the birds in that section but there are 3 that either missed getting chip rings or need re-chipped (AA 19029, AA 19025, and JNC 1812).  These 3 pigeons are all in the loft and will be re-allocated next time we have the main Benzing unit out.  The 250+ birds in this group are loft flying well and a pretty big flock has started to develop with more constantly joining the flock.  Over the last couple weeks we have lost a couple more birds in this group to hawks or the owl that continues to pick off birds that stay in the trees overnight.
 
I wish I could say that overall health of the pigeons has been great since the last update but unfortunately that is not the case.  When I last updated on April 19th a couple sick birds had just popped up among the first two groups of birds and within a couple days a few more had came up sick.  One of those ended up pulling through but the others did not make it.  Over the last 5 weeks in the first 3 groups of birds (260+ birds) maybe 18-20 birds came up sick and about 12 or 13 of those died with a handful pulling through and now back to good health.  As is usually the case with Young Bird sickness (Circovirus and Adenovirus) the majority of the birds in this section were unaffected and continue to stay healthy.  Among the first 3 groups (260+ birds) we have only had a couple die in this section in the last couple weeks so I believe the virus has just about passed through that section and those birds will be fine moving forward.  So many of the birds in this section act mature and look like yearlings.
 
Unfortunately the 4th group of birds (about 80-90 that arrived in early May) have been hit much harder with about 13 to 15 dying over the last 2 1/2 weeks.  This is a much higher percentage than usual and it has been very frustrating in that at least in this section I don't think it's necessarily the weaker birds getting sick.  These were birds that all passed through about 7 to 10 days of quarantine with no problems and then went into their own section.  It appears there was either a carrier bird(s) in that section with a more aggressive strain of virus or for whatever reason the virus that went through the first groups of birds mutated into a stronger form once it got into a new group of birds.  Symptoms are almost always the same, the bird huddles up on the floor lethargic and goes extremely light while hardly eating or drinking.  Usually the ones that actually die get a glassy look in their eye within hours of dying.  As with past years we've tried removing them from the loft and isolating them and also leaving them in the loft and it doesn't make much difference either way.  It does seem like when you take them from the loft and isolate them they usually give up and are dead within 24-48 hours.  Still you do get a handful of them that continue to eat a little and not give up.  It's always nice to see these birds looking better a week later and then being completely fine in a couple weeks.  With that said of the actual infected birds, I'd say only about 25% survive. 
 
All of the birds have been receiving Oregano Oil in the water as well as Elderberry and Echinacea.  These all have anti-viral and anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties.  In addition they also get Showstopper and Max Immune Plus supplements on the feed and recently we started using organic cinnamon powder on the feed every few days as cinnamon is also reported to have some anti-viral and bacterial properties.  When dealing with viruses like Circovirus there is really not much else you can do other than try to boost the birds immune system, prevent secondary infections, and let the virus run it's course.  I think all of the health supplements do help and they were a help in minimizing problems with the first 3 groups of birds but for whatever reason they have been less effective with this 4th group.
 
There is a 5th group of about 80 of the youngest birds that have been moved to the main loft but they are completely isolated from the other groups and so far they all look great with zero sick birds in this younger section.  We are going to try and keep those apart from the others as long as we can before finally mixing them in.
 
The birds are quarantined in their own holding cage with their own food/water bowls when they come in for 7 to 14 days when they come in.  On arrival they are given a PMV vaccination and a single dose treatment for canker.  The vast majority of the birds look great from start to finish through quarantine before going into the main loft (again in their own section/group of 80-100 birds).  Sometimes you receive some youngsters that look a little rough (or worse) when they arrive.  Generally we leave these youngsters in quarantine longer (sometimes up to 3 weeks) until they look really good but I wonder if these same youngsters that looked a little rough on arrival and stayed in quarantine longer end up being the carriers that pass viruses onto the other birds in the main loft even though they themselves appear healthy.
 
As everyone knows not every breeder takes care of their pigeons as well as they should.  Unfortunately one loft races and the other breeders within these races are at the mercy of a small percentage of breeders that are not in tune with the health of their pigeons.  Just over the past 3 weeks we've had 2 particularly bad examples of youngsters that were sent to the loft with major problems.  One breeder sent birds and within 4 or 5 days of being here in quarantine one of the youngsters had full-blown PMV with the twisting neck syndrome.  Considering the youngsters had been here less than a week and in their own quarantine cage this meant this youngster was sent to the loft with PMV.  Another breeder sent some youngsters and again under quarantine within a week one of the youngsters had leg/wing paralysis and Paratyphoid symptoms.  Examples like the above are really discouraging when people are sending birds with obvious health problems.  To put it bluntly the breeders with health problems in their breeding lofts and/or young birds should not be sending out young birds to out of area races.
 
For some all of the above may not be what you want to hear but it's the truth and it's the truth for most one loft races in most years.  I could try to paint a rosy picture and turn these updates into a BS fluff piece saying that all of the birds are in super health and everything is going 100% perfect........... but that's just not the reality of taking in hundreds of young pigeons from different lofts all around the country.  It is challenging as a handler and between settling, hawks, and health it can also be pretty stressful as the breeders understandably have such high hopes for their birds.  I don't update the news page as often as some of the other races but when I do, my goal is to provide in depth content of what is really going on with the birds good and bad.
 
This year young bird sickness has hit the GCC birds harder than the last couple years but even in good years you still lose 5-20 to sickness and there was one year we lost about 40 so we're hoping this doesn't turn out to be any worse.  Even if it does this is not our first rodeo and once their through it (with most of the birds remaining healthy the entire time) they will go on to race well.  Every year young bird sickness tends to start up in late April and subside by the end of June.  Part of the timing I think is attributed to the constant weather/temperature changes you get later in spring.  The last two weeks along we've had stretches of 3 or 4 days in the mid to high 90's and then two days later we're cold/windy with temperatures dropping 30+ degrees.  Needless to say that kind of weather doesn't help for trying to maintain the health of the birds and it has been a trying time over the last few weeks.
 
Things will get better though and the strong birds will survive.  Fortunately most of the birds are strong.  We're definitely not having the best spring but for those that have followed the race before we tend to make up for it in the fall with great races.  We have contacted most of the breeders that need to replace birds and some replacements have already been sent.  There are a few more breeders we need to contact in the next few days.  
 
Will update again in the coming weeks with status of the health of the birds and progress on loft flying and pulling 10th flights on the next groups of birds.  - Matt
Apr-19-2017
APRIL 19TH UPDATE

New entries continue to arrive steady every week and as I write this we have accepted just under 300 birds with more arriving over the next few days. We expect to take in around 400-425 young birds this year for the 2017 Gold Country Challenge. Low 400’s was our goal as that is a good manageable number that keeps the birds comfortable as well. The loft will hold over 500 birds.

 

If you have not sent your entries yet, you still have about 1 more month to do so. Our races do not start until October which gives even the May entries plenty of time to finish the body moult. Every year pigeons that arrive to the loft in May and sometimes even June perform great in the races, so if you still have not sent your entries don’t let the later arrival date discourage you as they have just as good a change as any due to the races being in the fall. Replacements will be accepted through early June.

 

The first section of about 100 birds has been loft flying regularly (when it’s not raining/windy) and some of them are flying in a flock already. Younger batches of birds continue to be settled and added into this group with a new group going out later this week after the last of a series of storms we have had. This has been a very wet and stormy winter/spring with the rainfall and snowfall totals way above average this year. We even had a dusting of snow here at the loft less than 2 weeks ago, but mostly just a lot of rain and wet ground that will seemingly never dry out.

 

There are 6 birds that are missing from loft flying and we will run the clock inventory one more time this week to confirm none of these came back. We know for sure one was killed by a cooper hawk and another was killed by an owl after it stayed out overnight. I suspect the hawk and owl are probably responsible for at least a couple of the other missing birds but will never know. The cooper hawk that was giving the GCC birds and my own youngsters problems over a week ago seems to have moved on from the area.

 

Overall health has been excellent so far despite all of the cold wet weather. As I write this no birds have been lost due to sickness yetbut there are a couple birds that we just had to take out of the loft and isolate that didn’t look so good. These may end up being the first birds lost to sickness but will see in the next few days if they. When you bring in hundreds of youngsters from all over the country it’s inevitable that you are going to end up with a handful of sick birds. We’ve been fortunate the last few years to keep that number in the 15-30 range which is a pretty low percentage. Quarantining them on arrival definitely helps as well as using multiple immune boosting and probiotic based products to help build and support their own immune system. Most of the birds stay strong and healthy from start to finish and I do believe as a general rule that pigeons who get sick were not going to be champions anyway.

 

The moult on the older birds is progressing very nicely and some of them that really moulted quick are starting to look like yearlings. In a couple of weeks we are going to pull the 10th flight on all of the birds that have been here a while and then a couple weeks later do another batch of birds. Right now the birds are on about 20 hours of late per day and at the end of May we will go back to natural amount of day light. This transition usually helps accelerate the body moult on some of the birds that were not moulting the body much.

 

When youngsters arrive here to the loft they are given a PMV-1 vaccine shot and a single dose canker treatment. They then go into quarantine cages (in small groups of 4 to 8) on the porch area where they get a good view of the property and can also see the loft. They remain in quarantine for about 7 to 12 days in most cases. The quarantine process is really more to make sure the youngsters are less stressed and eating/drinking well before going into the main loft. Quarantine is probably not going to prevent a seemingly healthy carrier of a virus from getting into the main loft…….but it will help ensure all of the birds are stronger immunity-wise when they do go into the main loft. We use about 4 or 5 different supplements that are immunity builders and while none of them are miracle cures, when combined together they do seem to help quite a bit.

 

To be continued……