Giovanni Cossa & figlio, father and son, both have pigeon racing running through their veins. Giovanni is 79 and Christian is 49 years old, and they both live in a small village 15 km outside Milan. Giovanni started racing pigeons in 1958. He located his racing loft in the attic and his breeding loft in the garden.
Giovanni and Christian have a long tradition breeding many Olympiad pigeons. Their first Cossa pigeon in an Olympiad raced in Brussels in 1971. They have represented Italy as an Olympic pigeon team more than fifteen times. They were also present at the last two Olympiads, Brussels in 2017 and Poznan in 2019, where they had one pigeon in the Racing category. They always participate in different events worldwide, such as the Belgian Master One Loft Race in Nevele (BE), the World Championship in Deinze (BE), the Master Award in Affligem (BE), etc.
Pigeon racing in Italy does not come easy. Summers are very hot and humid with strong headwinds and temperatures often climb over 30 degrees Celsius. This is why they need very strong and healthy racing pigeons, which they like to call “gladiators”, in the hope that they win the races, one of their daily mottos being: Winning is not important, however is the only thing that has value.
They have been Versele-Laga customers for more than 30 years, and they even consider themselves “Versele-Laga Ambassadors for Italy”. In fact, they use all kinds of Versele-Laga products (e.g. breeding, youngster and racing mixes) and they trust the quality of the Black Label and Immunity Concept I.C. mixtures. Additions like grit, minerals, pick stones and egg food are given regularly and refreshed daily. They would also want to say “GRAZIE” to the Italian Versele-Laga team for their services and suggestions to continue their success in pigeon racing.When do you start breeding your pigeons?
We have a tradition in our loft, almost like superstition, to start the breeding season on 14 February, Valentine’s day, so no winter breeding for us. It is not necessary to start breeding in winter, because youngsters races in Italy only take place in September to the middle of October.What are the most important factors in determining the couples?
The most important condition for a successful pairing is to breed super champion pigeons. We pay attention only to one thing: selection based on racing performance, and consequently the quality of the pigeons. In fact, when you pair pigeons that are a good flyers or their parents were top pigeons, you get a bigger racing gene pool. It also goes without saying that pigeons must be in good health and with a body built to race, and, last but not least, all of us need to be lucky sometimes too!How do you prepare your pigeons before breeding? Any medical treatments?
After a good moulting period, we start preparation for the breeding period by doing some basic medical treatment. We have a vet check their health one month before we start breeding. The pigeons get their vaccinations as usual, paramixo and bloodwork for coccidiosis, trichomoniasis and paratyphoid. As for their food, we use the Start Plus I.C + breeding mixture : it’s a really well-balanced food that gives the pigeons lots of energy.
We always look to the feeding plan that Versele-Laga specialists made and that we have been using for many years. Of course also we look at the changes and new developments the animal nutrition world. This is why we started using the Black Label mixtures with the famous black maize a few years back. One week before coupling we will use also Ferti-Oil and Calci-Lux, which was suggested to us by our dear friend Mathieu De Clippel (editorial note: Mr De Clippel was the Versele-Laga technical advisor for pigeons, but he sadly passed away in 2020). Of course, before and during breeding period we always provide and refresh additions like Colombine Vita, Pickstone, Ideal Bloc, All-in-one, etc. A few times a week we also add Oropharma Omniform vitamins to the drinking water.Do you heat the pigeon loft or do you play with the light to stimulate the drive (sexual drive) of your pigeons for breeding?
We don’t heat our pigeon loft. Even though we live in northern Italy, the Milan area temperatures at the end of February until March are quite warm enough and the breeding period generally goes well. In March there are some very nice sunny days, perfect for breeding.How many rounds do you breed consecutively?
Normally we will do two or three rounds per couple per year. Only the best breeding couples can get three rounds. If we can, we leave only one youngster in the nest per couple, especially on the second/third round, which makes it easier for the breeder and the parents stay in better condition for the next round.At which age do you wean the youngsters and what kind of feed do you give them?
When the youngsters are 25-30 days old, we separate them from their parents. We feed them a balancing mixture: Plus I.C.+ Black Label Start with Plus I.C.+ Junior. We use also some Sneaky Mixture (small seed mix) which we distribute on the loft floor the first week after weaning to “stimulate” them to pick up and start eating.Do you have specific tips and tricks for young/new pigeons fanciers?
Based on the long experience of my father I have learnt that for a beginning fancier it is important to start very determined and with a lot of passion. Watch what other top fanciers are doing in their loft, watch how the top pigeon fanciers breed and race their pigeons and never be satisfied. Also keep trying to do better every time. After completing one goal, it is necessary to find your next one. Our motto is: “until the end, with passion”.