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Management May 2002

General Management    June    Training    August

Our practice has been to medicate the young birds as little as possible to allow them to develop their own immune systems.  Upon arrival the new arrivals will be be quarantined to insure no diseased birds are introduced into the loft.  The birds will only receive natural additives such as: vitamins, garlic, apple cider vinegar, glucose, probiotics, electrolytes & nourishing tea in the water.  Bleach will always be in the water when no other additives are present.  Only sick birds will be medicated in quarantine and if not recovering in a reasonable time they will be dealt with in the usual manner.  However, if the unthinkable should occur, that is, a mass outbreak of some disease, we will be prepared to use the appropriate treatment.  All birds will be vaccinated for PMV.

The darkening system will be used.  Darken hours will be from 4:00 pm to 8:00 am.  Birds will be on darkening for the months of May and June.  Because of work commitments birds will be exercised once a day during the week and twice during the weekend.

Training will begin in late June.  Normally the birds will receive the following training tosses: 3 x 8km, 2 x 15 km, 2 x 30km, 2 x 50 km,  2 x 80 km and 100 km before the first race.  Additional tosses may be required if the birds are not homing quickly from any of the release points.  Once racing begins the birds will only receive a couple of 80 km tosses before the 400 km and 500 km races because of the 2 week rest period.

May

May 8th to 27th

May has been an unusually cold month.  Daytime temperatures struggled to reach 10 C.  When the temperatures exceeded these values it was guaranteed that the following day would have strong NW winds blowing and bringing more cold weather.  Even the sunny days where uncomfortable.  The leaves on the trees are only now beginning to slowly indicate that summer is not far off.

The birds have responded with increased appetites and were often seen huddled as if something else was bothering them.  Yet mornings dropping remained firm and only a few showed otherwise.

It has been a challenging experience managing this year's Le Tour with youngsters arriving over a 4 week period. An unusually cold breeding season for many has resulted in later arrivals than normal.  Insuring that the older birds did not overwhelm the younger ones required more care in introducing the late arrivals.  New additions had to be segregated for several days until I was comfortable that they were healthy and could compete for their portion of the feed against the older birds.  Just corn and peas were fed.  It has been my experience to feed otherwise results in the younger birds choosing the small seed first and not get their fair share of the feed.

Initially the youngsters were only fed once a day after their evening exercise period.  This strategy was used to gain control of the flock and to insure birds trapped quickly when called to the rattling can and my awkward whistle.  Often a handful chose to spend the night out however they trapped quickly the following day when hunger set in.  Only one decided to stay out for a few days and eventually disappeared.  Note: missing young ones have been removed from the reservation list.

To achieve a more balanced diet and to ensure that all youngsters received their share, the feeding program was changed to small seed in the morning and large grains for the evening meal.

Health Program

This health program was developed mainly from the excellent essays written on health and disease control by Dr. Gordon Chalmers provided on the Alberta Classic Site.

To date only 2 youngsters out of 125 arrivals have not responded to this regime.  Unfortunately they are no longer on the Le Tour race team.  Two remain in quarantine and prognosis for one is not good.

Saturday the 25th was a pleasurable day.  The day was sunny but cool.  The birds were let out in the evening for their daily exercise.  As I sat back and watched many of the youngsters testing their wings by dancing around on the roof of the loft.  About 30 decided to be more bold and took off to zoom and dive around the yard.  No group flying yet.  Another bunch of about 20 decided to land on the ground and to pick around.

Suddenly the birds' behavior changed.  Those flying landed.  Those on the ground flew up on the loft.  Those on the roof sat motionless. Then all twisted their heads nervously and looked up into the sky.  So did I and instinctively I knew what would see.  High in the sky soared a hawk.  I whistled immediately and the youngsters began to trap quickly.  Only 5 decided to stay out to test the hawk.

Luckily for the stragglers, today the hawk chose just to look and fly away.

Relieved for the moment I thought, "so this is what the sport is all about."

Monday the 27th of May was a bad day.  During the birds' evening exercise period the hawk swooped over the loft and took an unsuspecting young one.  Most of the birds scattered in all directions.  The sky was filled with awkward flying young ones testing their wings in panic.  By 9:00 pm the vast majority had returned.  I suspect there will be a few more missing than the unfortunate young one that became the hawks first victim.  Several youngsters returned the following day

I tried to look at this event in a positive light.  First, the hawk encouraged most of the young ones to test their wings.  Some of the lazier ones would have sat on the roof forever if not motivated to fly.  Second, the hawk attack should  make the youngsters more aware of the perils of loafing around the loft when outside.  This experience should make many of them more cautious in the future.

The birds will be kept in for a few days and their exercise period will be changed to the early morning.

An inventory of the birds will be taken Sunday morning.

General Management        June