The Ponderosa Australia Stud Story

          (Reprinted ….Courtesy The Australian Racing Pigeon Journal)

John Hofman was the man behind the first legal importation  of racing pigeons into Australia since the 1940’s …  so we asked him to tell his story………

(Picture – Courtesy John Desira)

The story leading up to the establishment of Ponderosa Australia began back in February 1988.

It was fortunate that I was working on an evening shift loading sheep onto a livestock carrier bound for the Middle East at Outer Harbour/Port Adelaide when I got talking to a quarantine inspector who knew that I had an interest in pigeon racing.

He informed me that his department had just received the latest information from Canberra regarding the pending legal importation of live birds into Australia.

I asked if he could furnish me with a copy of this information which I duly received the next day.

I believed that I was one of the first of the general public to read this information, and with my previous experience, having worked for a customs and shipping agent, I had considerable knowledge of working on the other side of the counter with both customs and quarantine officers.

That gave me a head start over most others in handling and organising each shipment regarding the proposed live bird importation.

This information was passed to several of the leading studs in England, I then wrote to them expressing an intrest to import. Some of those I wrote to included Ponderosa UK, Fountainhead, Louella, Regency, Clwyd, and Planet Bros.

However it was the Ponderosa UK Stud who were the first to contact me.

When Mary Bartlett phoned me just after midnight one  night to ask me if it was alright if I would be their agent in Australia.

This I accepted, and I was very glad that iy was in fact the Ponderosa UK Stud that I would be working for  as my good friends David and Margaret Jackson had recently returned from a trip to Europe and the UK and they had visited many of those studs mentioned above.

I’ve always considered David a very good judge of a pigeon  and when he got back he said that he was most impressed by the Ponderosa birds, both at the UK Stud in England  and the Greenfield Stud in Holland, and if legal imports into Australia were approved these were the types of birds that he thought would adapt to Australian condition s the quickness’s best.

He thought they would do well as in general they were a smaller type of bird found  in  most other studs, and were more like the b birds we race here  than any other he had seen.

Little did I realise at the time  that within 12 months the door would open  to allow this opportunity to occur.

The First Legal Shipment of birds.

When applications to import were called for by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services – Aqis – we duly applied and  we were fortunate to be awarded the first legal shipment  of birds of any description to come in to this country  since the ban back in the early 50’s.

Being the first shipment  quite a few problems  and hassles arose – the mani one being the building of the  Avian facility  st Spotswood Victoria, which was finally completed some 12 months later than originally scheduled.

Another disappointing aspect was the suffocation on the aircraft of a number of birds due  possibly to a poor stowage position in the  hold.

After the shipment went through quarantine fairly successfully my wife and myself  were invited by Hans Ellerkamp to visit his studs in Holland and England, and on that trip in January 1991 the seeds were sown to start a Ponderosa Stud in Australia.

Hans Ellerkamp’s son, Evert Jan and their export manager, Frank Dockman, agreed to send out 20 pairs of youngsters from some of their best pigeons to be the foundation stock for the stud, which would save the Australian fanciers the trouble and expense of getting through  quarantine, with the approval of  the Ministry of Fisheries and Fauna (MAFF) in England, and Aqis.

The eggs of the selected birds at the Greenfields Stud in Holland  were transported under permit to  the Ponderosa UK Stud where they duly hatched and were reared by foster parents.

A large number of eggs were sent across in several batches to  allow for the selection of the best.

Consequently we were the only major  stud in Australia to possess stock directly related directly to the stock in Holland, and although our range  of strains is nowhere near  what is offered by the Ponderosa UK Stud stains that we do have – in many instances – are of the same generation as the UK Stud has to offer the fanciers in England.

Ponderosa Australia commenced operations  in the 1991-92 breeding season with several direct imports from the Ponderosa UK  STUD, and several children bred from other ponderosa imports in the first shipment.

The direct birds – via the eggs from Holland Method –  arrived in a later shipment in 1992, and in December 1992 further stock arrived from  both the Ponderosa UK and  Holland via the egg method.

This Bolstered even further the quality of the shipment of the Jansen Strain carrying the Lines of the Marilyn, Bourges Becky  and Kasskop, supplementing the earlier arrivals  which contained James Bond, Wonderboy 95, The General, Famous 95, Raky and Kassop lines etc, etc.

At Ponderosa Australia we have facilities for 42 breeding pairs, at this stage we do not intend to become any larger as we wish to concentrate on quality rather than quantity.

We are pleased to learn that already  pigeons bred at Ponderosa Australia are producing winners as well as direct stock  purchased by many other fanciers around the country from Ponderosa UK  and Greenfields Studs.

We have experienced  success ourselves this year  with a small team  of late bred youngsters.

In the Farina Derby  1990 we were 1st  2nd and third club, 1st 2nd and third group  and 10th, 11th and 12th SAHPA against 7, 198 birds.

Then weeks later  the 1oth Association was 3rd Club, 4th Group and 50th Association in the Lyndhurst 5 bird Special.

The 10th Association is a pure Janssen, the 11th Association  was a Muelaman, and the 12th Assoc was a Klak.

All these arrived together and were All in the trap together, so their actual positions were in the order that I put them into the clock.

Realistically they were all first club, first group and 10th Association.

I consider this quite a feat as they were all late January youngsters, mouthed only one or two flights, and it is a well known fact that these birds fly much better  when mature as two, three  or four year olds.

I would also like to take this opportunity  to pass on a little advice to  fanciers who have purchased, or intend to purchase birds of imported stock.

Although ourselves and a number of other fanciers with direct Ponderosa imports have proved that most of the Ponderosa strains will race as pures, the quickest way to success  is to cross them with your own successful families, but just don’t go halfway.

For example 50/50 – go one step further by crossing back to your own  familiy or back to their import side, ie  either 75 per cent own family and 25 per cent import, or 25 per cent own family 75 per cent import.

Looking back over the last two or three years  I believe that so far  David Jackso’s assessment  that the Ponderosa UK strains would adapt to the Australian conditions quickly may well have been correct, and numerous winners and placegetters with pure and cross Ponderosa pigeons  have been reported the length and breadth of the country.

There have been more  Ponderosa pigeons imported into Australia, however naturally I am biased towards the  ponderosa pigeons and believe that we have the best – but at the same time  we do not intend to knock any of the other studs who’s stock have come from other  sources in England.

As with all forms of livestock  some will be good and some will be no good  and this probably occurs more markedly in pigeons.

Fanciers overseas have often hit the jackpot  by purchasing similar strains from different studs and putting them  together the same haas already happened here.

Finally I would like to inform fanciers that it is unclear  was to when the next shipment  of birds from the Ponderosa UK  will occur.

We applied for further shipments when applications were called for buy missed out. I suppose the import priorities committee considered  that so far we’ve had a fair suck of  the straw and we can certainly not dispute that .

Current shipments will see the avian  facility fully booked  into the end of 1995 and further applications will be called for in early  1995 so  if we are successful then  I anticipate the earl.iest we would  expect another Ponderosa shipment  will be mid to late 1996.

I would like to thank the Editor  Bill Wells for the opportunity  to contribute an article  about the Ponderosa Australia Stud  and hope it haas been of interest  to you the reader.

If nothing  else it would at least serve as a brief and accurate account  of how we began and hopefully  in  the future will becom a successful part of racing pigeon history  in Australia – John Hofman.