400 Mixes-Part I
The 4 part article below was first published in Nederlands in 1996 by the “Neerlands Postduiven Orgaan” a weekly paper that sadly is now defunct.
I translated the series, shortly after it was published, and had their permission to publish it, on a website I was very involved in at the time called “In The Loft“. I thought it would get many fanciers thinking a little more deeply about what they are feeding and why. After rereading it myself recently, I thought it should be republished, as most of it is still relevant today, 20 years later. In some ways the racing pigeon sport has changed very little over the last two decades. Hope you enjoy reading Part 1. The other three parts will follow weekly.
Recently the American Institute of Medicine did a survey on the influence of diet on performance. They looked at both physical and mental performances. To do this scientists took all the literature available on diet and performance enhancement and submitted it to critical review. The results of this study were heavily against any evidence of a positive influence of diet and dietary supplements on performance.
Physical performances are made possible by strength and or stamina. The last few years there has been a flood of research published in obscure medical publications where everything and then some has been claimed. The American research left no stone unturned, often the information was conflicting. Sometimes a performance enhancement could only be shown under very special circumstances by a given person, nothing that applied to the ordinary athlete. Besides physical performance they also looked at emotional performance (motivation and general feeling of well being) and cognitive performance that is learning, memory, perception, and judgment. In this group it was found that performance enhancement could not be measured. Their conclusion was that there was nothing that surpassed a varied diet and regular exercise.
FEEDING AND PERFORMANCE
This news could have been read a while ago in a daily newspaper. Then what does work? In humans it is only possible to show that carbohydrate loading in young male athletes may, and we want to emphasize may, influence performance. The only other way performance can be shown to improve is through the use of stimulating products, which all regulating sport bodies have ruled illegal. Emotional performance, again in humans, seems to be influenced positively be the amino acid tyrosine. Other than these examples it has not been shown anywhere that any type of diet or food supplements can influence performance.
With these conclusions retailers of all types of feeds and food supplements will not be overjoyed. They can be shown by the above scientific conclusions to be, charlatans, quacks and profiteers. Also, the purchasers of these products should draw their own conclusions. It is an illusion to believe that this might happen. Peoples believes and opinions are held strongly and their self confidence in their abilities and methods are influenced by these.
Grain handlers developed the various seasonal mixes to make it more convenient for the fancier. The annual lifecycle of the racing pigeon can be divided into four periods; breeding, racing, moulting, and resting. For each period the accent of the feeding changes. Simply, the differences are as follows; for racing and resting the pigeon requires principally energy, therefore, a mix with a high energy content; for growing and moulting the pigeon requires building products, therefore, a mix rich in protein. Energy is contained in carbohydrates and fats which are the contents of grains and seeds, building products in the form of protein are contained in legumes and seeds.
The grain handler provides for each season mixes containing more of this or less of that, all according to the needs of the season. For insurance a variety of grains are used to guarantee that all known and unknown nutrients required for general health and specific bodily functions are provided in the mix. Finally there is the amount we feed, a factor the feed dealers seldom talk about and which in fact is more important then the composition of the mix. To obtain the effect needed for each season pigeon feeds have only two specific functions, provide energy and provide protein. In between there is a status quo, that is to say a rest period or a period of change from one to the other season.
In the introduction we already learned, that in the world of sport nutrition little new knowledge was discovered, therefore, there is no chance that a better mix will be brought to the market. Once a mix has been thought out, pigeon feeds can be a boring product where no big advancements can be made.
The industry tries to keep the subject lively by translating human nutritional knowledge to the pigeon sport. Profiteers will sometimes blow this all out of proportion. There are always fanciers who desperately want to believe these claims. After all most people want to take the easy way out.
WHAT’S BEING OFFERED
For many years we have tried hard to obtain the composition of the mixes offered for sale. Mostly we have been successful, sometimes not. Mysteriousness on the part of the industry in this respect is a bad sign. In this way our collection of 435 mixes us an incomplete inventory of all that is for sale in the Netherlands. Realistically, on the grounds that in fact these unknown mixes do not fundamentally deviate from tHose we know about, our collection does give a representative picture of the total offered for sale.
These 435 mixes from 24 separate retailers are divided into 112 races mixes, 65 standard mixes, 59 young bird mixes, 52 breeding mixes, 39 purifying mixes, 17 winter of resting mixes and 40 specialty mixes. On average that comes to about 18 mixes per retailer. Today just about everyone can discuss nutrition. Terms such as, starch, carbohydrate, protein, amino acid, fibre, ash, digestibility, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, energy content, a kilo calorie are familiar to just about everyone. All grains, legumes and seeds have their own pattern and content of these elements.
These can be found in nutritional tables. Grains are know for their high carbohydrate content and their high digestibility, thus, they deliver 80% of their energy. On the other end of the scale are the seeds which deliver 70% of their energy through their hight digestible fat content. Between these two are the legumes whose strong point is their usable protein.
Pigeon feeds are mainly composed of 12 ingredients, namely, corn, wheat, milo, barley, rice, oats, buckwheat, peas, beans, vetch, sunflower and safflower. In smaller amounts, millet, Austrian peas, mung beans, soybeans (toasted), a variety of small seeds and pellets are also used. The seasons for which the mixes are intended are labeled; breeding, racing, purifying, moulting, winter, young birds (with or without corn) and standard or four season mixes (all round).
With most mixes it does not matter what the value of any particular grain is, but, what matters is the result of using the whole mix. To determine what percentage of grain, legume or seed to use, computer programs are used. All the nutritional information of each grain, legume or seed are in the programmes data base. By, entering the what is required of the mix, the software will calculate what ingredients to us and the amount of each. For example: the energy content must be “x” and the amount of protein must be “y” and the fat content cannot be higher than “y”. The programme can calculate, for example, the least expensive mix that will meet our requirements. When all the data has been entered into the software, the computer will goes to work and calculates a feed mix that meets the requirements perfectly. One would suppose that this mix is than bagged and put on the market and sold by the retailer, but this does not always happen. This is because most pigeon fanciers have a specific idea as to how a pigeon mix should look.
It often happens that what the computer calculates as an ideal mix has such an unattractive appearance that it becomes unsaleable. When this happens the manufacturer chooses a less ideal mix which does have the appearance pigeon fanciers think it should have.
If we know the percentage of the ingredients in a mix (how much corn, wheat, beans, etc.) we can with the help of the nutritional tables on each grain calculate what the carbohydrate, protein, fats etc. content of any mix is made up of. We did this for the energy value and the protein content (including the amino acid amounts of lysine and methionine / cysteine) and compared mixes according the these elements.
After a careful analysis of the total number of mixes we concluded that 85% of the given mixes have an energy content of between 2900 – 32000 Kcal (av. 3005 Kcal) and have a protein content of between 120 – 160 gr. / kg. (av. 141 gr. / kg.)
To be continued
This article has been reprinted with permission of the “Neerlands Postduiven Orgaan” now defucnt.
The original was written by “A. Coolen” in Nederlands.
Translated by ” Nick Oud”