This article caught our attention on Facebook (yes, sometimes, interesting things can be found there too).
Thank you, Joe, for allowing us to share this with our readers! You can find and connect to Joe Nemalka on Facebook, when he is not out, enjoying quality time with his pigeons.
NRPL – Selection
I was talking with a new flyer friend and he asked me "how do you know what birds to send to OLRs? How do you know what ones are good and bad or do you just send them off what you think are your best pairs?" The honest answer is that I take the profound wisdom I have gained over the last 37 years in the sport – ignore it – and just guess, hope and pray and stick the birds in the box. OK, there is a bit of sarcasm in there, but it isn't actually that far from the truth. If you look at the number of people that really do well in OLRs they rarely have even around 20% of their birds do anything worthwhile and most of good breeders are well below 20% of their youngsters winning money. Go look at www.olrstats.com and you will see the numbers right there. So I will call BS on anyone that acts like they can pick a champion OLR bird when it is still a youngster. We are all truly just hoping, guessing and wishing when we send youngsters out. With that out of the way, I really think it boils down to three things: pedigree, conformation and information to get the percentages in our favor in trying to do well.
Like most things in life – "past performance is a predictor of future performance." If you have birds that have a history of breeding pigeons that do well, you are likely to get a few in the future that will perform well. Unfortunately, in the pigeon world, I don't care how good of breeders you have if you raise 10 babies off your very best pair you will likely only get 1-2 that are pretty good, maybe 1-2 that are average and the rest will likely be poor performers. I know some of you may disagree with me and say that super pairs breed 90% champions – I will say "show me the data to prove that." Another variable to consider is what constitutes a good performance. A book could probably be written on that one with all the different opinions out there. We hear about people talking about a super bird in a race series that didn't win a dime and only did well on short training tosses. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I see nothing noteworthy unless the pigeon performs when the money is on the line and the race is over 250 miles. Push me even harder and I will say "it is all about the final race!" I truly believe that. I know I talked about it before on FB, but the number of "participation trophies" that breeders assign to their pigeons in OLRs must number is the 10's of thousands every year. Look at the number of pedigrees that try to make a 50 mile toss sound like the final of the Hoosier Classic – they are everywhere!
Anyway, back to pedigree before I do actually write a book about how to value performance. When I select my pigeons for races I first want to know what the parents have done. That is evaluation criteria #1 for me.
The next thing I do is handle the pigeon. I look at the balance, the back, the vents, the wing, the forearm, the feathers, etc. and try to see if I like the pigeon. I actually have a ranking system I use where I put stars by the birds on my list. 5 stars is the highest and no stars is the lowest. I can actually add a + or a – to the stars if I can't decide if the birds is 3 stars or 4 stars. I do recognize this is extremely subjective as I will often handle a pigeon and think "Wow, I really like this pigeon!" and hand it to someone and they will say nice pigeon. I will then handle one and say "This one is OK" and hand it to someone and they will "Wow, this pigeon is awesome!" I am not saying I am right and they are wrong, but I do sometimes think and may even ask "Really? Why do you like it?" Some new flyers will often respond with "I like its markings" and I think – "ok, never mind." ? Seriously, I actually try to talk through what I liked and what I didn't like about the pigeon to share my opinion and teach them a little bit about a pigeon. Several people did that for me many years ago – and still do – and I am just trying to share my opinions and thoughts.
I will say that regardless of pedigree I eliminate birds every year off my very best pairs that just don't handle to my specifications. I have done this long enough to know that if I send out a weak backed pigeon or a pigeon with another defect it is VERY unlikely to do well regardless of what pair it is out. If I raise 10 birds off my best pair I usually eliminate 1 of them per year. People often say, "That bird could have been amazing!" You know what, they are right, but 99% of the time it won't amount to anything and I am playing the percentage game in every aspect of my pigeon hobby. Every time I eliminate one of those birds I often think to myself – "how can guys buy pigeons for a lot of money that isn't even born yet or is really young?" Anyway, that is another book that could be written.
The final thing I do is try to understand the race, the one loft manager and the competition. I think about speeds of the races, training and care regime of the manager and then how many birds and who enters. The rules and prizes are also a consideration as I want to send the youngsters off my most proven pairs to the races with the highest prize money opportunities. I truly study the races and results for the past few years and see what works. I am not much a "horses for courses" guy as I believe a good pigeon is a good pigeon no matter where it is flown. If it was "horses for courses" I think you would see more guys winning races with the exact same birds every year and you just don't see enough of that in my opinion to make a strong case of "horses for courses" for me. I do, however, think that some pigeons can handle heavy training better than others so that is a consideration I factor in.
I hope this is informative and helpful. This game really is more of an art than a science, but there are certainly some basic principles we can use to improve our chances of success and have more fun. There is lots of information out there – both good and bad – you can decide what the information I have shared is. Take it or leave it.