Secrets of the Champion 2003 Loft of Joe & Madelyn Zack
By Robert R. Prisco

In previous articles, I have mentioned and used the term "champion loft or fancier". All countries have recognized certain lofts / fanciers as the best of the best in their particular area and within their style of racing. Joe & Madelyn Zack of Jamesburg, New Jersey have just completed an incredible and record setting 2003 yb. series in the “largest combine in USA”. The Central Jersey Combine (CJC) YB. SERIES averaged 222 lofts and 2,615 birds per week for its 10 yb. Race series. This is an extremely tough west to east racecourse with a 90-mile combine front and over 40 miles of depth. The “ZACK LOFT” won 3 of the 10 combine races at distances of 100, 143 and 247 miles. Joe & Madelyn accumulated an extraordinary amount of “LOFT POINTS” in each race. The official “CHAMPION LOFT POINTS” report shows that Zack Loft flew in 2 clubs and was 1st Champion Loft (CMI CLUB) with 2,329 points and 2nd Champion Loft (CCC CLUB) with 1,954 points, finishing well ahead of the 3rd Champion Loft (718 points). The “Champion Bird Point” report for the CJC was just as impressive. The official results listed 112 birds and Zack Loft had 33 of them. When the Hall of Fame, Ace Pigeon and Championship Loft Awards are announced for 2003 YBS. in LARGE & BIG DIVISIONS, the Zack Loft will be among the TOP HONORS in all of the categories.

There must be some things that all these world champions have in common to bring respected success year after year in their own country and style of racing. What are these common "secrets" that all possess, secrets whose absence would mean no "world fame, riches or master title"?

We have listed 10 secrets that we feel are the most important for a champion loft / fancier and how they apply to Joe & Madelyn Loft. Remember, no one secret is more important than any other. All are necessary for repeated success year after year.

SECRET #1: To be a champion it takes a 365-day a year program based on a system of healthy birds and sound management practices. It is no longer a hobby, but a serious business, and must be run like one. Joe states “FOCUS, FOCUS and FOCUS – Specialization is the key. It is impossible to breed and fly young birds, old birds, fly futurities and specials along with participation in the various pigeon related functions of our sport and club and expect to be anything but average or mediocre”. The Zack loft specializes in YBS., racing and especially the specials and futurities.

SECRET #2: No one can do it alone. You must surround yourself with quality, knowledgeable individuals. Most have partners, mentors, spouses and children that help on a daily bases. Each person must know his own job and take the responsibility to complete it to the best of his abilities each day. The Zack Loft is a partnership of Joe and his wife Madelyn. Joe has made it known that the morale and physical support that she gives to this partnership on a daily bases is the big difference, and he gives her all the credit for the loft’s success.

SECRET #3: A fancier needs a source of quality, proven birds that possess the ability to handle the style of racing in his area. Once a fancier accepts the fact that all pigeons are not alike, that they all have different qualities of flying ability, and that he understands what types of birds he needs to fly in his area, then he must be able to eliminate those birds or pairs that are not suited for the style of racing in his area. This is very hard for some fanciers to understand and accept, but until they apply this to their breeding programs, they will never be successful. Joe also gives a great deal of credit to “PAUL JOHNSON”, his partner in the breeding loft, for sending him the right birds and his constant effort to breed better quality birds through a very strict culling program. Joe and Paul have improved their recording keeping, eliminated those birds that have not produced and bred a few extra young each year from the proven pairs. They go to performance lofts for new stock and keep their breeders in top condition all year. Making improvements each year certainly paid off as birds that Paul sent Joe won 3 combine races and 3 YB. Futurities in the 2003 yb. Season. Zack Loft also received birds from Sam Grocott of New Jersey and Ed Minvielle of Louisiana that flew well on the 2003 race team.

SECRET #4: Joe believes in a training system that concentrates on mental and physical conditioning. Keeping a regular schedule and routine is important to the birds. Joe believes in small group training tosses to keep the birds fit. Try to keep your training schedule as close to the times and locations of the race series. Rest and motivation is just as important as physical training.

SECRET #5: Use a health and hygiene program 365 days a year. Avoid overcrowding with plenty of fresh air and natural sunlight in the loft. The birds' drinking and feed containers should be clean enough for human consumption. Joe cleans them twice a day and has found that plenty of baths, less birds and clean water helps produce and maintain a healthier environment.

SECRET #6: Use a trapping system that is simple and easy for both the birds and the fancier. Spend time educating your young birds to the system. Keep the same routine each day. Patience is a must. The birds must trust you, understand the system and you must be gentle. If not, it will cost you time and money on race day. There is no better person than Madelyn. She is always there during training tosses and on race day.

SECRET #7: Accept the real truth, it is necessary to have a good medication schedule for the birds 365 days a year. If a fancier will not medicate regularly, he is wasting his money buying bands for the race series. Without a good medication program, you lost before the series even started. Do not waste your money. Zack loft buys the best medication packaged from the manufacturer, not cut by local suppliers, and applies a weekly medication program. All medication is kept in ideal conditions, and they have at least 2 types for each situation. They vaccinate for POX, PARAMYXO and PARATYPHOID. They keep a constant watch for cocci, canker, e-coli, worms and especially respiratory. The key is to keep your medication supply current and alternate the drugs during the season. Find a good pigeon veterinarian and use him for help when necessary. Always medicate with a specific purpose. After you medicate, always place the birds on vitamins and electrolytes.

SECRET #8: Understand the birds’ nutritional requirements with a proper feed schedule. Buy the best grain, pellets, grit, vitamins, minerals, #1 grade peanuts and other supplements. Feed them PLENTY. NEVER KEEP THEM HUNGRY OR THIRSTY! This year the birds worked hard and they received all they wanted to eat of the best quality feed available. This is one change Joe has made from past years. Store the feed properly. A water-grain diet will not keep you competitive. Supplements are important, “feed them well”.

SECRET #9: Keep the loft a secure, comfortable, stress free environment, suited to the area and location of the race series. Keep it dry, with plenty of natural air exchange, plenty of natural sun and plenty of area for birds to rest and relax. The birds must “LOVE THEIR HOME AND HANDLER”.

SECRET #10: A fancier needs "good common sense". He must be willing to learn from his mistakes. He does not let his own personal pride interfere with accepting new ideas and seeking out knowledge about the sport. This is also a 365-day a year process. Many fanciers do not give their birds a chance to win because they fail to improve their own ability and knowledge of the sport. We are all learning everyday about our birds and what we can do to make our success better. It is hard work. Do not look for shortcuts because there are none for the champion loft / fancier. All the partners of the Zack LOFT keep up with the latest developments in health care and technology and look to improve every year.

Along with their great results in the CJC, the Zack Loft did some serious damage again this year in the local YBS. Special and futurities. This is not unusual, as the local fanciers know that “IF JOE IS FLYING HE IS THE LOFT TO BET”. Joe has stated that the futurities are not a gamble; in his eyes they are an investment, which is how sure he is that he and his team will succeed in the specials. That is why they have WON at one time or another just about every special or futurity in which they are eligible to compete, from long to short. Joe and Madelyn’s advice is to “Apply good common sense practices to pigeon racing and be willing to make changes. SPEND MORE QUALITY TIME WITH THE BIRDS, BE MORE OBSERVANT OF THEIR ACTIONS AND HABITS”. The 2003 record setting season is history. The Zack loft is already preparing for the 2004 yb. Season. Their goals and standards are high and their focus is to better the 2003 results. Members of the “ZACK LOFT” ARE A CLASS ACT AND A REAL CREDIT TO OUR SPORT. We wish them the very best in 2004.