Annabelle Heath, who swapped life in the horse racing world for a career in poultry, is the winner of the 2015 Zoetis/British Poultry Council Trainee Award.  

Junior Environment Minister Mark Spencer presented the award at the annual British Poultry Council ceremony at the House of Commons on Dec. 8. The honor includes a £2,000 (US$2,999) training grant from Zoetis and £500 (US$757) cash prize from the magazine Poultry World.

Before joining Cargill Meats at Hereford 18 months ago, she spent six years working in racing stables and competing in flat races around the UK. “Had I ridden a few winners, life might have been rather different,” said Heath. “But after I’d spent three months on an YFC scholarship in New Zealand, I was looking for a career in agriculture and the opportunity came up with Cargill.”

Her nomination came from Nicholas Ham, Cargill Meats breeder rearing area manager, who himself won the Zoetis/BPC Training Award in 2013. 

“Annabelle is a very enthusiastic young lady with a real passion for poultry and a thirst for knowledge,” he said. “She started her career with Cargill as an assistant farm manager at our breeder rearing site Ermine Street and has shown real potential for progression within the company. She often comes up with new ideas and better ways of doing things on the farm, and is always asking questions and trying to improve the performance of the birds.”

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Heath, who was brought up near Telford on a mixed farm with a 120,000 broiler unit, is working with Poultec Training towards a National Vocational Diploma Level 3 in poultry production. She was recently accepted into Tesco’s Future Farmers Foundation, a 12-month training program that includes business planning, supply chain experience and networking opportunities. 

She plans to use the Zoetis training grant to study poultry behaviour under different regimes – free range, barn or less intensive barn — to achieve “a much greater understanding of why production differs the way it does and why poultry behavior has such a huge impact.” She plans to enroll for a distance learning course with Scotland’s Rural College — an approach that her manager took when he won the award. 

The runners-up for the award are Laura Addison of Thirskm, who works in the P D Hook hatchery at Dalton in North Yorkshire; Andrew Bumfrey, manager of a turkey farm for Bernard Matthews in Norfolk; and Daniel Roberts, a trainee area manager for Faccenda Foods in Oxfordshire.

The award is chosen by a judging panel comprising Philip Clarke, editor of Poultry World; James Porritt, Zoetis poultry manager for UK and Ireland; Richard Griffiths, BPC food policy director; and Jason Gittins, ADAS senior consultant. In addition, Heath received an engraved trophy for herself and another for Cargill Meats.