Thoughts on Feeding Westfall Jaconettes
By Mark Fields
As I am dispersing my flock for health reasons, I wanted to get down these notes before I forget. Bob Westfall and I were friends and while we talked many times, he was always hesitant to give me an exact formula on feeding his family of birds. Instead he’d push me to adjust the feeding myself and decide what worked for me. Being a guy who deals in “specifics” this always frustrated me, but at the same time caused me to really pay attention to the feed, the birds and their reactions to adjustments.
Joe Beach was another roller guy that had lived in the Midwest and in 2012 he first told me to feed rollers a mix of 47% wheat, 47% milo and 6% safflower. He would feed this 6 day of the week and on the 7th day he’d add a few peas.
Joe would mix 50 pounds of wheat, 50 pounds of milo and an 8 pound bag of safflower. Using Joe’s ration as a basis I finally came upon the following mix. I’ve changed it from percentages to ratios (almost identical) so that you can mix any quantity you wish.
- 7 parts wheat
- 7 parts milo
- 1 part safflower
- 1 part whole barley
Wait a minute, where did that barley come from – you ask? In the many discussions on feeding various grains a consistent thread has been walking that fine line between being fit and being overfed. With this family I have found that adding this little bit of whole barley resulted in a more uniform flight and slightly slower wing beats. When feeding this mix, if you see any barley left in the tray that is an indicator you have overfed them.
I ascribe to the 1 level (not heaping!) Tablespoon of feed per kit bird. This is the starting point. Now let’s get into the fine tuning. For this I’m going to fall back to something Graham Dexter chatted about when he visited to judge the World Cup in 2019.
Let’s assume you fed each bird 1 Tbs of feed yesterday. Today they flew for an hour and wouldn’t trap in as nice as you like. When you feed them remove 1 teaspoon of feed for every 5 birds. On the next fly watch them closely. If they still fly long or are slow to come in cut another teaspoon off the feed.
By tweaking this slowly you’ll find that amount that is just right for the kit. A couple words of warning, however.
- First, and I found this interesting, each kit, even though exactly the same family, may take different tweaks to the feed, especially if you’ve separated cocks and hens.
- Second, periodically you should bounce the feed back up to the full measure and start tweaking again. As they age, as weather changes or as they become more fit, the birds need this reset to make sure things are “just right”
Grit. Yes, they need grit and yes that will mess up the program for a couple days. I like to free feed grit or pullet oyster shell about once a month on a day when I know they won’t be flying tomorrow. Can’t exactly understand it, but it seems like the first day after the grit they are full of energy and fly too long and too fast. OK, usually I’d go ahead and fly them on that day, knowing it would be a bad performance day, but never ever tweak with grit right before a competition unless you’ve really figured out how your birds respond to it.
Wheat is the mainstay of many pigeon rations. In fact, some flyers use nothing but hard red wheat for their kits. I’ve found that when given just wheat the Westfall birds will become “lean mean flying machines”. They will fly long and high.
Safflower is like the wheat in that it causes long and high flying because of the fat content. It is a good grain to increase in cold weather as this added fat helps with heat and feather quality.
Milo almost always gets eaten first out of any mix. It is the equivalent of pigeon candy. It will slow down the kit as it is burned up quickly. Likewise, they will fly lower and for less time.
Barley slows down the rollers even more so than milo. If too much barley is fed, the birds simply will not fly, and their rolls becomes very sloppy. Basically “they fall apart.”
Using this information on the effect that different grains bring to the mix, you can tweak the feed. If they are flying too high or two long increase the milo and barley. If too short, then add either safflower or wheat.
Now one interesting point that must be considered is the location where you are buying the grains. Hard Red Wheat as grown out West is not at all the same as we have in the Midwest. Our hard winter wheat is somewhere between a soft wheat and the hard red of the West. Likewise, red milo vs yellow milo should be considered. I only used the red milo as the yellow seemed to give them too much energy.
So, at the end of the day, Bob was right. You start your birds on a feeding regimen and then you tweak it. I hope that what I’ve given you will help give you an idea of where to start.