ASTERE VERGOTTE, AALTER, BELGIUM                                                                          1ST NATIONAL CHATEAUROUX VS 21,515 YEARLINGS

 3 X 1ST Nat. Zone 2014, Chateauroux (Yearlings), La Southerraine (Yearlings) & Tours (YBS)

By Ski Grabanski

I met Astere and his wife, Edith in February of 2014. Astere took us through his flying and breeding lofts and then Edith served us a very nice lunch. After lunch, soft drinks and hot coffee, Astere brought out many of his top racing hens and breeders for us to handle. All of the birds were outstanding.

As a child, Astere can remember always being in the lofts of his father Cyriel. In his early youth, when his father developed breathing problems, most of the loft duties were turned over to Astere . He joined his father on the race sheet in 1964 when he was 16 yrs old. He said that his father taught him invaluable lessons in breeding, health and getting the birds ready to compete.

Astere's flying lofts are all on the second floor. The stairs to get to the second floor are very, very steep . We asked Astere how on earth does he get his baskets of birds up and down the stairs without breaking his neck? He showed us a very ingenious way. He built a frame that his baskets fit into and then hooked up an electric wench on the second floor that goes up and down from the first to the second floor (see picture). The breeding and cock lofts are in a different building on ground level. Oh, did I mention that he only competes with the hens during old bird season ? The team consists of around 24 birds, half are usually yearlings.

Some 2013 highlights:                                                                                                                                          Gueret National (560 km)  23rd, 62nd vs. 11,894                                                                                                          Bourges National (450 km)  28th, 117th vs. 9,639 (4 entered)                                                                                    Orleans Provincial (564 km)  1st, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 27th, 35th, 75th, 78th, etc. vs. 3,205                                Vierzon  Inter Provincial (442 km)  5th, 8th, 14th, 22nd, etc. vs. 6,420

Some 2014 highlights:                                                                                                                                                1st & 7th National Chateauroux (491 km) vs. 21,515  "Fatima"                                                                                    1st National Zone Tours (455 km) vs. 4,436                                                                                                            4th Int. Provincial Vierzon (442 km) vs. 3,848                                                                                                       8th Provincial Poitiers (571 km) vs. 4,023                                                                                                           12th Int. Provincial Chateauroux (491 km) vs. 3,842

 I was just getting ready to send this article in when Astere got in touch with me to let me know that he was just given some very good news. He was just declared  1st Provincial Champion KBDB 1st & 2nd Nominated Old Birds and Yearlings Heavy Middle Distance East-Flanders 7000+ fanciers and 8th Ace Pigeon Yearling "Steffy" Provincial East-Flanders.                                                                                                                                                                  Some  fantastic results, from what some call "the weaker sex". Not in this case! Wouldn't you agree?


 I have a cute story for you on Astere's win from Chateauroux vs. 21,515 birds. On the day of the race, the weather report showed that the birds would be going through some heavy showers on their way home. One of the things we all do on race day, is try and figure out about what time we think the birds will return, and then proceed to the back yard about an hour before that. Well,  Astere was in the back yard in the garden long before he thought the birds would be home and Edith was sitting there watching him when she thought she heard a "Beep" from the electronic clock. She told Astere, and he told her he thought she was mistaken. there was just no way the birds could be here this early. But thank goodness he decided to check. He was very surprised when he saw "Fatima" sitting on her perch watching him. He thought it must be a mistake, maybe she somehow got out before the other birds??? When he called to report her arrival within the 10 minutes required after the first bird arrives, he was calling to say he thought his bird somehow escaped.  He was told that there were other birds that had also been clocked in the area. What a surprise and what a win!!!!!  CONGRATULATIONS to both Astere and Edith!!!!

BREEDERS: Astere's breeders since 1989 consist of the bloodlines of The Cattrysse Brothers (Oscar & Gerard) and Roger Vereecke and in 2002 be brought in some birds from Rik Cools and Piet Blancke. In 2009 he decided to bring in a few birds from De Munter & Sons.

 New birds that are brought in are never put to the top breeders. He will pair them with brothers or sisters of his top breeders.  The birds are put together in November. He has 15 pair of breeders and 15 pair of pumpers.

OLD BIRDS: As I mentioned earlier, Astere only flies the hens.  This started back in 1989. Over the years he has been fine tuning this system and I now believe he has it running like a fine tuned machine. He mates the widow hens in late November. They are allowed to raise a round of youngsters. When the youngsters are around 16 days old (before the hens lay back), the cocks are removed and the hens raise their youngsters on the floor. As soon as the youngsters are weaned (26 days old), he starts to let the hens out for exercise   They are paired again on March 5th and as soon as they lay their first egg, the cocks are removed. Astere starts road training around the middle of March. Once the race season starts, all road training stops. The hens are let out twice a day for their exercise period.  Believe it or not, the hens only fly around 5 minutes at the beginning of the week and build up to about 10 minutes towards the end of the week. If they are flying 20 minutes, Astere says he can expect a pretty good race day. The hens are shipped 15/16 races during the season. 12 weeks in a row, they fly 300 or more miles (483 km) each week. The birds fly about 5,000 miles each during the race season. He said the hens can fly this schedule for three years and then are retired. The hens do not see the cocks before they are shipped. After they arrive home, they are fed and watered for the first half hour. During this time, they can see the cocks but can't get in the nest box with them. The birds usually stay together for 3 to 5 hours. If it's a difficult race, they may even stay together until the next morning.

FEEDING: He feeds the birds the same mixture (Matador- Super Start) seven days a week. He does add some fat to this mixture towards the end of the week. One of his favorite grains to add at the end of the week is Hemp.  No light mixture is given when the birds return.

MEDICATION: Astere said he has something, vitamins, minerals, etc. ( natural products.) in the water or on the feed almost every day of the week. He has three different vets that he consults with.  He buys all his products from Dr. Peter Boskamp of Holland. He consults Dr. Wim Boddaert of Belgium for medical advice (the birds are checked every month when competing) and Dr. Ruben Lanckrieton of Belgium vaccinates his birds for PMV and Pox. He does medicate in the fall if required and again in February for Paratyphoid and the medication is put on the feed.  He does not medicate his birds during the race season.


I would like to thank Astere and his wife Edith for sharing  part of their day with us on a fairly short notice. We all had a great time. A big thank you to Astere for answering all the questions that were coming at him from all different directions. It must have been somewhat confusing.  Again, thank you to Serge Van Elsacker for his excellent English and translation skills. It sure made our conversations go a lot smoother.  All of us had a very enjoyable visit here.

For more information, please visit Astere's website: