John Rekers and Son - the outstanding partnership!

We have been so lucky to lend this article about John Rekers and son from friends in England - Gareth Watkins has written the foreward, Mark Shepherd the rest of the article - we hope that you will enjoy - happy reading!

The start of the 2014 racing season with the BICC saw one fancier with one outstanding pigeon dominate the first two races in the BICC Channel race programme. The fancier was Mark Shepherd of Plymouth and the pigeon was his outstanding racer "The Durham Dazzler" which won 5th section 5th Open Falaise and two weeks later went on to win 1st section 1st Open Alencon competing against a record entry of 6,823 birds . As a result of these performances I compiled a loft report on Mark's set up and invited him to attempt an interview with his mentor John Rekers of Amersfoort in the Netherlands. The following is Mark's report on a recent visit to this outstanding Dutch fancier who, hitherto, had received little or no publicity in the UK. I'm sure that after reading Mark's article this anomaly will be corrected.

Friday 19th September saw Mark Shepherd and Chris Sutton heading to Holland for the final race of the Dutch season. Their destination was the partnership of John Rekers & Son, Amersfoort.
Arriving at their hotel around 5pm local time, Mark made a call to his very good friend John and arrangements were made for John’s wife (Regina) to collect the pair from the hotel and drop them at the club headquarters of APV de reisduif (1102).
Chris, armed with his trusted camera, captured some excellent shots throughout the night.

Above members of the APV De Reisduif.

John basketing.

A total of 67 birds were entered from the Amersfoort club for the race from Morlincourt-Noyon (approximately 330km to Amersfoort, 205 miles), with a total of 1,921 birds entered for the Federation.
The race was a natour race, which sees Old Hens and Young Birds competing, with only one result given.
After the birds were loaded onto the transporter, the night continued with plenty of Amstel beer, Frikandel sausages and good conversation of the differences between Dutch & British racing.

Transporter beeing loaded Friday evening.

Upon waking Saturday morning, Amersfoort had a covering of mist, however the sun was trying to break through, so the general opinion was that the birds would be liberated later that morning.
A lot of the local fanciers congregate around John’s shop (pet store) early Saturday morning awaiting news of the liberation. It was here Mark & Chris headed to get a taste of the action themselves. At around 10:40hrs, news came through that the birds had been liberated at 10:30hrs, into a light North West wind, turning more westerly on route.
Still up at the shop at around midday, discussing the expected time of arrival, loud clatters of thunder broke in the skies above, followed by short but heavy downpours. The thunder showers persisted for approximately 1 hour and concern was growing on the faces of the fanciers with pigeons entered in the race. The general consensus was the ETA would be around 14:30hrs.

Considering the outstanding form shown by the inmates of the Rekers loft in recent weeks, Mark & Chris were confident of seeing the winning pigeon arrive.

John Rekers & Mark Sherpherd (BICC National Winner 2014).

Below are previous two weeks results for the loft;
Racepoint; Lessines – Distance 195km – Date 07/09/14
1st Club – 195 birds,
1st Afd 7 Regio 2A – 2358 birds,
1st Afd 7 Regio A – 5373 birds,
1st Afd 7 Midden Nederland – 12,636 birds.

Racepoint: Niergnies – Distance 267km – Date 13/09/14
1st Club – 131 birds,
2nd Afd 7 Regio 2A – 1744 birds,
2nd Afd 7 Regio A – 3825 birds,
9th Afd 7 Midden Nederland – 9,337 birds.

Racepoint; Troyes – Distance 439km – Date 13/09/14
2nd Afd 7 Regio A – 1858 birds,
3rd Afd 7 Midden Nederland – 6494 birds,
5th Afd 50 Sector 3 – 17,857 birds.

Just after 14:20hrs, John received a call saying the birds had arrived in Utrecht at 14:18hrs. John turned to both Mark & Chris and said 15 minutes!!
Chris with camera ready waited eagerly to get the photograph of potentially the winning pigeon.

John waiting anxiously for the first pigeon.

Shortly after 14:34hrs, NL 13 1047577 Blue Hen came over the loft and after a quick spin around the loft was clocked at 14:34:49, followed by two together clocked at 14:36:23 & 14:36:27. These were then followed by a steady flow of pigeons.

John spotted the first one.

NL13-1047577 - winning pigeon arriving.


Calls began to come in on John’s mobile saying returns were not great, suggesting the weather conditions had effected the birds on route.
Back to the headquarters at 17:00hrs with the clocks and it became apparent John was well up with the leading pigeons, with the only conceivable danger likely to be his sister Mien.
The result came through, John had taken;
1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th Club
6th, 13th, 15th, 26th & 31st Federation (Afd 7, Regio 2A)
51st, 79th & 82nd Combine (Afd 7, Regio A) 5381 birds.

So let’s take a look at this partnership, in greater depth;

When did you start in the sport.
I have been involved in pigeon racing for as long as I can remember, both my father & grandfather were keen pigeon fanciers. In 1985, I started racing with my uncle Co De Neerling who passed away several years ago.
To this day the Rekers family race pigeons in Amersfoort, Mitchell & I race together, my sister Mien races on her own and my brother Cor also on his own. We all race in the same club, APV de reisduif.

John & Mitchell Rekers.

Who was your first major influence.
My father, when I was living at home with my parents, I would always be found down the loft with my Father.

Can you give brief details of your first loft, birds, management etc.
The first loft I had at home racing with my uncle was 8m. We started with birds from my Father, who had an outstanding pair of pigeons known as “De Supperkoppel”, even to this day they appear in a lot of my top pigeons pedigrees. They were direct from Janssen Bros of Arendonk and bred winner after winner after winner.

How long have you raced to your present location.
In 1997 I purchased a new loft which is 11m, we still race to this loft today and it has served us very well. In 2009 Mitchell wanted his own loft to race in as a youth member. This 3m loft is also still used for the old hens, which are treated different to the widowhood cocks racing sprint to middle distance.

John & Mitchells current loft - 11 meters.

Can you give details of your present loft set up i.e. overall dimensions , orientation , number of sections etc.
The current loft is 11metres as mentioned earlier, it is composed of four sections. Two sections for widowhood cocks and two sections for young birds.
In 2015 the 3m loft will be used for the long distance pigeons which will race on the natural system.
Both lofts are south facing.
Stock birds are keep at a separate location.
Lights are used in the lofts as and when required.

Do you use deep litter ,grids or clean daily/regularly.
The lofts are cleaned twice daily, with the breeding boxes vacuum cleaned once a week.

How many birds do you keep:- stock. racers, young birds.
We start the race season with 32 widowhood cocks, the hens only race on the natour races. In 2015 we will also be racing 12 pairs of long distance pigeons on the natural system.
We start the young bird season with 50 youngsters, which race right through the young bird and natour programme.
50 hens are kept to race the natour programme.

What system do you use to race the birds e.g. widowhood, round about, natural etc.
The cocks are raced on widowhood, the cocks see their hens for 15 minutes before basketting for the race. Once basketed the cocks are placed in a dark room for 20 minutes before they are taken to the club. This helps to settle the cocks after the excitement of seeing the hens.
The hens racing the natour programme, have raced on widowhood for the first time this year. Previous years they raced to the nest. We will continue with widowhood for the natour hens next year.
Youngsters are put on the darkness system from 1st April until 1st June, after that the light is extended until 10pm.

When do you mate your stock birds, racers.
We pair our racers and stock birds at the same time, generally the first week in January.
The race birds are allowed to rear 1 round of youngsters, the hens allowed to go back down on eggs for 5 days; they are then parted and put on widowhood.
The 5 days is important otherwise they start dropping their flights if you leave them on eggs any longer.

What is the preparation of the racers prior to the first old bird race.
Prior to the first race, we train our pigeons around 6 times starting at 10km going upto 60km. After the first race they go on the transporter with the association.
Everyone training together helps generate revenue for the association.

Do you force fly your birds during exercise or are they left to do as they please.
The birds are never forced to fly, upto May they are given 1 hour of freedom per day and afterwards they are given 1 hour twice per day until the end of the race season.

How far do you usually train.
Training flights are between 5km – 60km.

Is there any specific preparation for the birds before National races.
For a national race the pigeons usually get an upper respiratory preventive treatment, products used come from Schroeder / Tollisan.

How much racing do your young birds receive and how many training tosses do they have in the year of their birth.
Similar to the Old birds, prior to the first race, we train our pigeons around 6 times starting at 5km going upto 60km. After the first race they go on the transporter with the association.

Do you race your young birds on the Natural system or Darkness/light system
All of the youngsters are darkened from 1 April to 1 June. The loft is darkened from 19:00 to 08:00. After June 1 loft is lightened, the lights remain lit until 22:00.
No lights are used in the mornings, natural sunrise is allowed to lightened the lofts.

* How do you feed the racers, stock birds, young birds – hopper /by hand. How do you gauge how much they need at each feed.
Our widowers are hopper fed which is increased from light to heavy towards the end of the week.
We use the premium mixes from Beyers namely Vandenabeele, Wal Zoontjes and Super Widowhood.
The youngsters same mixture all week namely: Jan Keen and Vandenabeele mixed 50/50.
Only with harder flights we mix in Super Widowhood twice weekly.

Do you feed any differently in the build up to National races.
We mix up a special formula, containing Sheep Fats, Peanuts and Cheese. This is fed in the breeding boxes, later at night after they have been fed.

What are the main bloodlines that you house now and which lines have proved the most successful.
Our Janssen/De Klak lines from our National winner “De Teletubbie” are our most successful lines. He has bred winners, his children breed winners, as do his grandchildren.

We have introduced many crosses over the years, and had a lot of success with W. de Bruyn, G.Koopman, Marijke Vink & P. Veenstra pigeons crossed to the “De Teletubbie” lines.

Is there any fancier who has helped you more than any other.
Not necessarily fanciers, I listen to different people and take onboard there theories. However the success of the partnership is down to hard work from both Mitchell and I, plus help from my wife Regina, who also plays an important part.

Can you give an outline of your many top class performances and those that have given you most pleasure.
We have achieved many top positions at the highest level. Our 1st national / NPO Etampes by “De Teletubbie”.
Also had a super hen called "The Coby” she flew Barcelona four years running 2006/2009, her best result was 5th Zuid Limburse Unie (International between Germany, Belgium & Netherlands) in 200X.
Additionally, we have achieved many top 10 listings on the NPO races.
In the past 4 years we have been 3 times Imperial General of the region. Last year we were also 1st overall champion of the middle distance of the entire Section 7 central Netherlands. This is the first time in the last 30 years this has been achieved from a location in Amersfoort.

Can you give details of some of the top pigeons that you have raced.
This season we have an exceptional youngster “De Shepherd”, named after my good friend Mark Shepherd from Plymouth.

“De Shepherd” achieved 5th National Troyes, 17,857 pigeons.

Also this year we have 2 outstanding hens “Double Zero” & “De 199” these 2 hens are nestmates and on;
7th Sept 14 “Double Zero” won 1st Lessines, 12,636 pigeons, the following week “De 199” was 9th Niergnies, 9,337 pigeons.

Last year (2013) we again had a topper that is 00-1470013 'Clasie' who won 1st NPO St. Quentin in the same race “Fiat 500” (ace pigeon Afd 7 in 2012 & 2013) was 4th over 5400 pigeons.

Last year a Blue W/F hen won 1st ace pigeon natour, she is a daughter of the 'Sunshine' who has just recently transferred to the stock loft after winning 8 x 1st prizes himself.

Do you have any views on how the sport can be improved and how we can attract new members into the sport.
Beginners, we need to try and encourage with advice and we always try to help with the young fanciers.
There are always plenty come in my Pet Shop for advice, this needs to be prompted throughout the sport.

Do you have a specific programme of medication.
Medically we do not program as such, trichomoniasis we treat the first day every month during race season, using stormygil that is the only time they are medicated for tricho unless we doubt our pigeons are showing signs of the trichomoniasis infection.
Other products we use are from Schroeder / Tollisan as and when required, we also use nutritional supplements Jaap Koehoorn among others. Vydex products especially Entrodex and Carbosol.

Do you use any supplements such as vitamins etc.
Vitamins are also used, three-plus Schroeder / Tollisan is given with Entrodex.
Sedochol is another product used weekly.
The youngsters also get WG-Ropa. This year we have used Red-Cell, which is used in equestrian, we are well pleased with the results.

* Do you feed any supplements in the build up to long distance / National races.
As mentioned earlier for the harder races we use the mixture Peanuts, Sheep’s Fat and Cheese grated using the blender.
We add Super Energie Schroeder / Tollisan product.
For recovery after races we use Jaap Koehoorn Products; Recovery Superior in the water on return. Also we use Jaap Koehoorn’s famous “Yellow Drops”, used once mid-week in the water or on the day of basketing a drop in the mouth.
This product works against the mucus.

* How does your ideal pigeon look/ handle.
A pigeon with a rich coloured eye and strong construction.
We select very carefully each year, which pigeons we will bred from, which is why most of our pigeons have similar eyes and similar abilities. We have strict criteria and all requirements must be met.

* If you could only use one product / supplement what would it be.
If I could only use one product, I would select a product which contains iodine. Iodine because it has an antiseptic quality.

There you have it then, an in depth interview with a modern day "Dutch Master". A fancier, who as I say, not much has been written about previously, but who I feel sure will be very much to the forefront of people's minds in the future.

In the next days we will open an online auction from this fantastic loft - John Rekers & Son - we are sure that these pigeons can make a huge difference - Good luck !!

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