There are many different sorts of grains available to the Australian pigeon fancier, most of which may be purchased economically in bulk. The nutritive value for each type of grain varies considerably, and great care must be taken to ensure that the correct balance of protein and carbohydrate is made available to both the stock birds and the race teams alike. Modern scientific research has made this task much easier, and offers a number of highly informative and easily read publications, which simplify the task of formulating the special diets needed if one wants to be successful in the sport.
However, the racing pigeon cannot maintain
a state of perfect health solely by way of a wellmixed diet of high quality
grains. The diet must be supplemented with minerals, vitamins, trace elements,
etc., which can be quite easily administered to the pigeon in a ready-made
vitamin and mineral block, similar to that available for cattle. As the
pigeon well knows when he has had sufficient, this block can be left permanently
in the loft.
There are also several brands of soluble vitamins on the market, and all one does here is add the amount required to the birds' drinking water. Because the racing pigeon is basically a prisoner and must rely on the owner to supply the necessary vitamins and minerals, through either the correct diet or a commercially produced supplement, disease can hit and wipe out a loft of malnourished birds in a matter of days. The majority of disease in our pigeon lofts is contracted because the birds lack the strength to fight it.
It is impossible to state exactly how much food should be made available to the racing pigeon because appetites and bodily needs vary to a great degree, not forgetting of course that each fancier has his own form of management and training programme, specially mapped out to fit in with his daily activities.
Our method, to ensure fit and healthy pigeons, recommends the use of good quality grains, vitamins and minerals, grit, perfectly clean water, some greens, such as lettuce or silver beet, together with a well-planned and executed training programme.
For the owner and trainer of racing pigeons, the essential steps in the scientific rationing of the birds are, firstly, the assessment of their nutrient requirements, and secondly, the selection of the grains and other additives that can supply these requirements.
There are very good reasons why nutrients supplying energy be given priority, the main one being that if the diet devised supplies other nutrient requirements but is found to be deficient in energy, there is little hope of the birds winning a short-distance race, let alone a longdistance one. This will mean a major revision of the diet constituents. In contrast, a deficiency in minerals and vitamins can often be rectified simply by adding a small quantity of concentrate to the diet.
Again, the diet formulated will depend on the individual fancier's routine, as determined by his training programme and mode of management. If the given diet contains nutrients supplying high energy and the birds do not have a high activity programme outside the loft, as in the case of prisoner stock birds, this energy would be turned into bodily fats, which would not do the birds any good at all.
It is therefore important to maintain a correct balance between energy, the pacemaker, and other nutrients in the chosen diet. By including both carbohydrate, the energy-giving nutrient, and protein, the tissue-building nutrient, in the racing pigeon's diet, the bird will be able to store surpluses of energy and also restore bodily tissue quickly.
The legumes, cereals, and seeds readily
available and commonly used in Australia are as follows:
Legumes: Peas-several varieties, Beans, Peanuts.
Cereals: Wheat, Milo, Oats, Maize, Barley, Rice.
Seeds: Safflower, Sunflower, Millet-several varieties, Canary, Rape.
Even though cereals and seeds have a protein content, the highest will be found in the legumes, while carbohydrates are plentiful in all categories, with cereals leading the way. The oil seeds which are imperative for health and good feathering are safflower, sunflower, and linseed. Although peanuts are not used to any great degree as a pigeon food, either in Australia or overseas, in our opinion they should form an integral part of a teams' diet. Peanuts are known to be very high in proteins, carbohydrates, and oils, and therefore play an important part in the conditioning of our birds.
A complete food is available in the form of pellets. Though there is no doubting the excellence of pellets as a complete food sources for pigeons, they have yet to be accepted in this country, although some fanciers use pellets extensively.
The main disadvantage with feeding a diet of pellets only is that one does not have the control that is needed over the feeding programme. If it fits in with the individual fancier's daily routine, total control is the system to adopt.
We have supplied an analysis of the grains in general use in Australia. One must keep in mind that no two samples of any grain will give exactly the same results. Therefore the following tables should be regarded only as representative examples and not constant values. Almost every table of analysis gives different figures, due to the many variables in the growing, harvesting, and storing of these grains.
30-60 mL per day -on average
20-30 mL per day -in autumn and winter 30-40 mL per day -in spring
50-60 mL per day - in summer and while rearing young birds.
One-tenth of the body weighty, i.e. 20-100 g
Lightweight breeds: 250-300 g
Medium-weight breeds and carrier pigeons: 450-500 g
Heavy breeds: up to I kg
Approx. 8 mL per 100 g bodyweight,
Average body temperature:
140-400 beats per minute.