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The combination Claes Francis et Sylvain (Taintignies) 1st Overall provincial champion Hainaut/Walloon Brabant 2023

21 Mar 2024

Francis (67 years young), retired since 2019, and son Sylvain (37years young), security guard and independent bar owner in secondary occupation, form the tandem Claes Francis and Sylvain. Father Francis, pigeon fancier since he was 14, and Sylvain since he was 8, formed the father-son team in 1994 and so this year they are celebrating their 30th anniversary.  The loft facility is located in Taintignies, a small village in the Rumes district in the province of Hainaut, just a few kilometres from the French border. It is an 'All-Round' colony which, despite a limited number of pigeons, participates in all disciplines (speed, middle-distance, long-distance and great distance) with a clear preference for national races. Terloop mentioned ... in 2019, they were honoured as 3rd National Champion KBDB.

But the 2023 season was also one to cherish. Thus, they won the following championship titles

1st General provincial champion Hainaut/Walloon Brabant 2023
1st General provincial champion middle distance 2023
1st overall champion Derby Hainaut 2023 (for the 2nd year in a row)
1st general champion Hainaut East 2023

Daily tasks are divided between father and son, depending on Sylvain's busy work schedule. Francis takes care of the breeders, trains the pigeons and goes for basketing, while Sylvain takes care of the widowers, cleaning the lofts, feeding the widowers and the administrative management of the colony.

The foundations of the colony

The initial origin is Marcel Vandenabeele (Ronse) via eggs purchased in 2010, then pigeons were added over the years from Hugo Batenburg and Chris Musters (via Roger Debusschere), Baert Damien (Ere), Gino Clicque (Wevelgem), Pros Roosen (Kermt), Demaret Grégory (Herquegies), Etienne Devos (Deerlijk), Eric Cnudde (Tubize).


The colony consists of 24 breeding couples, which are paired around 15 January and raise about 100 youngsters every year. As for racing with the youngsters, the 1st round is raced on the sliding door system. The 2nd round is not separated. Sometimes there are pairs, sometimes not. 

The 64 widowers (34 old and 30 yearlings) are only paired around 20 March. They are allowed to brood for max 5 days and then the widowhood is a fact.  Weather permitting, they are also trained during this period. Widowers never raise young for the season. The widowers train twice a day but in 2024 this will be reduced to one training session a day. 
As this is an 'All-Round' colony and the 64 widowers competing in the various disciplines (speed, ½ long, long-distance and grand fond) are housed in the same loft, the widowers are given individual drinking and feeding. This is the only correct method of guiding each pigeon to its next assignment.  For this reason, each widower box contains a small drinking bowl and a pot for feed, fine seeds and other minerals. To feed the "voyageurs", mixtures of the 'Columbi' brand are used (via Frédéric Leclercq, who also lives in Taintignies). The 'Récupération Grand Fond Prestige' mixture is given as soon as the pigeons return from the races, then the 'Préparation Grand Fond Prestige' mixture is fed for the last meals before basketing. Before each "morning training", 'Top granulé' minerals are also served in the individual trays, as well as a mixture of small seeds. 'Top Forme' vitamins are added to the drinking water and once a week brewer's yeast and garlic oil are mixed over the feed.
In terms of motivation, the hens, before every basketing, be it speed, middle distance or a national race, are always shown. 
As for veterinary concerns, a check-up is carried out by vet Wim Boddaert (Oostkamp) before breeding. Veterinarian Nicolas Schoonheere (Tournai) is then consulted the first time before the start of the competitions and, if necessary, during the season. The pigeons will be vaccinated against paramyxovirosis, parathyphosis, smallpox and rotavirus (young pigeons).

Congratulations to Francis and Sylvain for their top results, and thanks again for the warm welcome.

Bernard Henry