Are routine treatments given?
Mark: I used to give routine treatments for worms, cocci, canker etc. and I had success doing so but it has a huge effect on the immune system so now I go to DeWeerd clinic in Colchester and they culture test the droppings to see what bacteria is present. They then do a antibiotic sensitivity test on these bacteria and they can tell if you are building up a resistance to a particular antibiotic which mine were because of routine treatments. From then I have decided to go to them all the time and get regular testing done before any treatments. It works out cheaper in the long run because many times they will need nothing doing. Its so important to make sure they actually have something before treatment.
Roger: I do give mine a dose of 4 in 1 before the season and a canker treatment 4 weeks into the season. There has not been anybody to go to in this country with sick pigeons that have really known what they are looking for but now DeWeerd is in this country, if I did have a problem I would go there. Bear in mind we began vaccinating for PMV in 1981 to elevate the problem and we are still doing it now! What’s going on I wonder.
What are the visible signs that something may be wrong?
Roger: I have never really come across too much of a problem and if I had poor results then I would investigate.
Mark: I think you can tell by the breast of the pigeon if it is right or not. The skin has to be clear and the muscle nice and pink. I am not saying this is easy to achieve but if I have a bad result I have noticed the flesh to be a bluely colour and I don’t know why it happens.
How do you ensure natural immunity in youngsters?
Mark: The only way to achieve natural immunity is to not treat for anything. Then if any bird was sick and recovered it would have an immune system able to protect it properly. Years ago we never had an option an pigeons were not blind treated and we had good strong pigeons as a result. I think treat as little as possible.
Roger: I think young bird sickness has got to be down to vaccination because we never had anything like it before we had to vaccinate for PMV. I never really treat my young birds for anything but I have to vaccinate to be able to race.
What are the early signs of young bird sickness?
Mark: I always get it and a lot of people do now. The first sign that I have noticed is an unwillingness to come in after exercise to eat. They then begin to regurutate the corn. I have been told it is a virus and cannot be cured; it just has to run its course. But once a pigeon has the virus it’s immunity becomes weaker to secondary infections, which can be treated. I never loose a pigeon through it but I do get and for a week I don’t like going in the shed because it upsets me to see it. Once they come back from it they are fine.
Roger: I keep them in and put them on depurative for 3 or 4 days and its normally over in a few days. Once I had to miss two races because of young bird sickness and once they were over it I topped the fed the following week.
When do you vaccinate your youngsters?
Mark: As soon as I wean the pigeons I vaccinate them for PMV. I also vaccinate for Paratyphoid but htat has to be done between 6 & 12 weeks old. This is when their parents immunity runs out and it helps them to avoid Paratyphoid. It can quieten them down for a day or two but then they are fine.
Roger: I only vaccinate when I have a full loft of young birds.
What, in your opinion, is the major health problem in pigeons?
Mark: Everything can be a problem and you need to be testing quite regularly for worms etc. I do vaccinate to keep on top of things and I do not have too much of a problem. Every month I send of testing kits from DeWeerd and follow their advice. You can watch the youngsters a exercise and they should be naturally wanting to fly.
Which do you think is best for medicating, tablets, in the water or on the corn?
Roger: I like tablets because you know they have had the correct dose and its easier. If they do not like the taste of something in the water they may not take enough.
Mark: I too like to use tablets because I think clean water is better for them to drink.
Do antibiotics knock the pigeons off form?
Mark: Definitely unless they have something wrong of course and then it will improve the form. But if you have a team performing very well and think I must treat because I have not given anything for a month or so, it can be disastrous.
Roger: I leave them alone if they are doing well. Years ago I had a team that were flying very well, taking the first three in the fed etc. and I did not do anything, not even change the grit, if they are on form leave them well alone.