How important are vitamins and amino acids to exhibition & racing pigeons?
Traditionally, pigeons continue to be fed with grain mixtures. However balanced as they are, these traditional grain mixtures are simply incapable of providing our pigeons with the required building blocks and nutrients they need for the proper working of all vital bodily functions. Grains and seeds simply do not contain the required amounts of minerals, trace elements, let alone vitamins and amino acids (particulary the essential ones). Moreover, the vitamins contained in grains are highly sensitive to moisture, direct exposure to sunlight and high temperatures. In due course, these vitamins lose a significant level of their action.
Important processes inside the pigeons body are simply prevented from occuring as a result of the vitamin deficiency (vitamin stems from the Latin word vita = life) that is thus brought about: i.e vitamins are positively vital.
In addition, there are a number of essential amino acids which cannot be produced by the pigeons body itself. If a nutrient or a supplement contains all the amino acids required to build natural body protein, it is said to be full-grade.
Another key factor however is the fact that the level of digestible amino acids has to be as high as possible for it to have a high biological value. This only goes to show the vast difference that exists between the various qualities of amino acids and proteins. Amino acids are the building blocks for the production of proteins. Over the course of a pigeons life, there are times when the metabolism is stepped-up and it is times like these when the pigeons are even more susceptible to vitamin and amino acid deficiencies.
Demanding times where vitamins and amino acids are useful
During the breeding season, a lot of demands are placed on the pigeons body. When paired up, very often the pigeons are subject to stress which for the hens is exacerbated even further because of the fact that they are expected to muster the physical strength to lay their eggs and to hatch them. And that is before even embarking on their task of raising the youngsters. This is definitley one time when the pigeons greatly benefit from vitamins and amino acid supplements. Not only is this essential for proper breeding, fertilisation and proper egg formation, the fact is that during the breeding season the young also need quality amino acids as the building blocks for healthy and sustained growth during early pigeon life.
Year after year, we demand more and more from our winged athletes, marathon races being a prime case in point (including for the comparatively young pigeons registered to take part) to the point what we also have to make the required nutritional resources to meet these goals available to our birds.
During the moulting season, the pigeon fully renews its feathering, requiring its metabolism to go at full tilt. In addition to the necessary vitamins, pigeons also need sulphureous amino acids during this time of year. Which are normally speaking available in insufficiant amounts as part of their regular everyday diet, plus the fact that renewing the plumage also involves a considerable amount of stress as well.
During the winter time, when the pigeons have fully moulted and are at a rest in their loft, supplementing daily rations with a regular multi-vitamin once a week is sufficient to cater to all of the birds nutritional requirements. However, if you are preparing winter breeding activities, the addition of a sufficiently high quantity of vitamin E, amongst others, is definitly needed if you want to achieve good fertility and succesful winter breeding.
Electrolytes...fast recovery... why this is paramount to racing pigeons!
What are electrolytes?
The first thing to be aware of is that electrolytes have absolutely nothing to do with medicines. The fact of the matter is that these are "natural" products on the basis of minerals such as sulphates phosphates, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, sodium..
In full flight, pigeons bring to bear uninterrupted muscular activity which sets off considerable numbers of metabolites in the body which are capable of severely disrupting the acid-base balance inside the body. During such efforts, the pigeon uses up huge quantities of minerals. The recovery after a flight can be accelerated by offering sugars and minerals. The deficiency in amino acids, sugars and minerals caused by the exertion of flight is soon restored. On arrival, the best thing to do is to supply a combination of electrolytes and sugars (glucose). These sugars will be used immediately partly to restore the glycogen supply inside the muscles and the liver. Obvioulsy due attention should go to putting the pigeons on a healthy and restorative diet once they get back, this to speed up recovery. Electrolytes can also be administered before a flight, especially when high temperatures have been predicted and the pigeons need to be prepared for high exertion.
Electrolytes in case of illness?
When suffering from intestial problems, pigeons often face diarrhoea. Such cases are often marked by a serve loss of salts and minerals which in turn serves to disrupt the water balance inside the pigeons body, with the bird fast losing a considerable amount of weight as a result of dehydration. Which is why in all cases of diarroea, on top of the treatment with an appropriate antibiotic, it is recommended to also offer the needed electrolytes and if necessary extra glucose, for as long as the symptoms persist.
Back to nature - only hale and hearty pigeons stand a chance of winning for years on end.
Pigeon sports today is a million miles away from the way it was half a century ago. Exceedingly high demands are made of what are sometimes very young athletes. Which is why it is imperative that we return our pigeons (especially in winter time) back to their natural way of living as much as possible, enabling them to gain the strength and immunity they need to return fully rested and restored when the new racing season starts.
All too often, a considerable number of fanciers think that administering medication is without danger. But medication should be considered to be a necessary evil. Once the racing season finishes and the pigeons are in optimal shape, the medicine cabinet is locked to be opened only in case of emergency.
During the winter months, it is recommended to administer a range of products, such as garlic and other herbs.
At the begininning of the moulting season, you can start a 2 week treatment with tea and moulting seeds (a mixture of herbs and seeds).
Why this long? It is a widely known fact that natural products only have effect if they are administrated over a duly protracted period of time on a regular basis.
By administering tea and moulting seeds, we are offering the pigeons a generally relieving and purifying treatment which improves the down moult and the moulting of older small feathers.
Throughout the winter, fanciers keenly resort to administrating garlic and brewers yeast because this serves to providing a widespread improvement of the pigeons general condition through the B-vitamins and the action of allicin (derived from garlic extract) amongst other things.
Prebiotics and intestinal conditioners: how do they work and what are the benefits?
Good digestion is vital for racing pigeons. Optimal use of the nutrients and necessary supplements administered can make the difference between being in good health and being in peak condition. However a variety of different factors stand to distrupt optimal intestinal action, such as illness, transport, stress...
How to stimulate the benign intestinal flora?
Digestion can be favourably influenced by administering an intestinal conditioner containing a prebiotic.
How does an intestinal conditioner actually work? Intestinal conditioners have a high content of soluble fibres. These fibres are basically pectine-like slimy substances which form a kind of gel on the intestinal surface which enables to protect the intestinal wall and regulate the intestinal action. Moreover, they see to it that the faeces are more solid and reduce the loss of fluid through the faeces to the minimum. The better class of intestinal conditioners also contain a prebiotic such as florastimul. Florastimul contains fructo-oligosaccarides which serve as nutrients to the benign bacteria inside the pigeons intestine, whereas the pathogenic bacteria are unable to use them as nutrients. This gives the pigeon a better chance of building up a healthy intestinal flora.
When to use?
In case of abdominal upsets and in all cases of a watery diarroea, it is recommended to also administer an intestinal conditioner on top of the necessary treatment, by the way of a support treatment. The much-feared young pigeon diarroea (adeno colli) is the first to come to mind. Obviously using an intestinal conditioner preventative is even better to create an optimal intestinal enviroment and is to significantly reduce the risk of intestinal disorders. Which is why we recommend you to give your young pigeons a dose of an intestinal conditioner about 3 times a week as well as on the first 2 days after their return home from a flight
Extra energy and vitamin sources.. The latest trend.. the use of oils!
Over the years, widespread awareness has grown that the principle source of energy for pigeons are fats.
Fats supply energy: they are the 'fuel' to the pigeons 'engine'. In former days, most fanciers used to think that, wrongly so, the main source of energy were proteins (beans and peas). Over the past few years however (based on the latest scientific evidence amongst other things), the awareness grew that higher levels of fats are required during the racing season.
Fats can be supplied by the way of supplements, this by mixing high-energy oil mixes into the grains. Not only the various types of fats that are important, the addition of lecithin for example as just one of several substances is just as essential. Lecithin sees to it that the supplied fats are also used to best effect. During the breeding season, there is widespread use of wheat germ oil amongst other substances, which is an oil particularly rich in vitamin E. Extra vitamin E (the so called fertility vitamin) can significantly improve fertilisation whilst guaranteeing simultaneous laying, especially during winter breeding.
Increasingly, fanciers are found to implement the latest trend of medicating the feed. The medications and/ or vitamins are better absorbed through the feed than they are via the drinking water. An added advantage comes in when very hot weather conditions occur as the prepared drinking water is otherwise apt to acidify and discolour.
Trace elements, minerals and salts.. fill your loft with all the natural goodness of nature.
Minerals and trace elements play an important part in physical growth.
Minerals (macro-elements), such as calcium and phosphorus, play an important part in the bone formation and the formation of the eggshells. Not only the presence of these minerals is important, the correlative proportion between calcium and phosphorus is very important too. Calcium also plays a leading role in the blood coagulation mechanism.
Trace elements (micro-elements) in the feed are only required in very small quantqaties. All the same they play an important role when it comes to metabolism dysfunctions. A lack of these trace elements can cause a variety of different metabolism problems.
The following trace elements are important:
Iodine: improves the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. When faced with a lack of iodine, problems arise such as diminished growth and fertility disorders.
Manganese: plays a part in bone formation, which may cause abnormalities in leg growth as just one of a range of aberrations. In case of grave deficiency, this may cause laying problems and the formation of very thin and brittle eggshells.
Magnesium: a lack of magnesium may cause growth retardation and muscle problems (including cramps).
Zinc: this particular trace element is needed for the formation of healthy skin and a proper feather build.
Iron and Copper: grave deficiences of either of these two may cause anaemia and blood cell production problems.
Sodium and potassium: these two play a key role in the acid-base balance and the water balance.