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Meet the finalists of this year’s Zoetis-NFU Poultry Trainee Award

picture of Emily Grove

THIS YEAR the Zoetis-NFU Poultry Trainee Award attracted entries from across the industry – from broilers to egg layers, pedigree breeding to feed compounding – and involves training providers across the UK.  

All the entries were of a high calibre, showing the depth of talent among young people building their careers in the poultry industry. So this year the judges from Zoetis and the NFU chose four as finalists.  

Instead of the usual face-to-face meeting with the judging panel, the interviews will take place remotely in the new year to determine the winner who will receive the £2,000 training grant sponsored by Zoetis. 

Normally all finalists would attend a presentation event where the winner is announced, and they would be guests of the NFU at its annual meeting in Birmingham.

How the 2020 award winner will be announced has still to be decided, depending on the pandemic restrictions.

Emily Grove – Avara Foods, Herefordshire

Initially, Emily Grove (pictured above) saw her career as a veterinary nurse, then decided to work with poultry rather than companion animals. 

She started with Avara Foods part-time in April 2018, quickly developed her practical skills and became an assistant breeder farm manager earlier this year.  

She obtained a Level 3 poultry technician qualification with Poultec Training in May and is seeking to complete the Level 4 Poultry Passport with an ambition to become an area manager.  

Avara breeder team area manager, Kimberley Evans, has only known Emily for a short time.

But she is impressed by the feedback from her previous area manager who explained: “For such a young girl, her ambition and excitement for learning and achieving new and innovative ways on Dugdale farm has been fantastic.”  

Her entry shows a wide awareness of many vital issues today, including practical steps to enhance biosecurity and drinking water quality. 

She highlights the need to encourage more young people to seek careers in the industry and convey a more positive impression to the public. “I believe all company farms and hatcheries should have viewing rooms allowing members of the public to see the birds without entering the biosecure area,” she states.  

Kane Burchell – Hook2Sisters, Gunness

Kane Burchell

After debating whether to go to university when student fees trebled, Kane Burchell worked initially on a family farm supplying free-range eggs to Noble Foods and then moved to Hook2Sisters in 2017.  

Starting as a farmworker, he became assistant manager a year later and then in 2019 moved to a farm near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, working in a team of three managing 330,000 birds each crop.  

Over the past two years, he has completed a Level 3 Diploma in work-based agriculture with Poultec Training, impressing his tutor Colin Emberley with a “great ability to take in information, learn quickly and put this knowledge into practice”.  

Werner Strydom, general manager of Hook2Sisters, Gunness, said Kane is very good at motivating the people he works with through his “can do” and “hands-on” approach.

Soon after Kane’s promotion, he arranged for him to visit another farm to see how the other farm manager deals with specific issues such as inlet management and ventilation. 

“Kane took a lot from this visit, and it showed me again just how valuable it is to get young people out from their usual environment to see different ways of dealing with the same issues to help them develop and broaden their thinking.”

Laura Harrison – Hook2Sisters, Scotland

Laura Harrison

Beginning her career in pedigree production with Aviagen, Laura Harrison moved to Hook2Sisters in 2013 and became a farm manager on a 200,000-bird site two years later.  

Now he is a trainee area manager responsible for two sites, helps manage the farm assist team and is training to become a qualified assessor. 

Frank Lawson, general manager (Scotland) for PD Hook, commends her ability to find new ways to tackle old problems, her easy-going, ‘hands-on’ approach and her bringing a fresh perspective.  

He adds: “Laura has shown on numerous occasions to be determined and single-minded to take on new challenges – and to strive for successful outcomes demonstrated by studying in her own time while managing a farm, bringing up two young daughters and bagging a few Munros along the way!”

Her motivation in moving to Hook2Sisters was to work part-time and study for a BA in human resources at Abertay University, Dundee.

Then she chose to continue her studies alongside her full-time career, enrolling for an Applied Poultry Science post-graduate diploma from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and she is now in her final year. This she is funding through a student loan of around £8,000.

Laura sees future recruitment as a big challenge: “The poultry industry isn’t recognised as a career option for a lot of young people as it is a hidden industry.  

“We need to promote British chicken, British farming and promote good working conditions to attract young workers.”

Harriet Smith – Crediton Milling Co, Devon

Harriet Smith

Brought up on a dairy farm, Harriet Smith opted to go into the poultry industry after graduating from the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. 

She began her career with Alltech and moved in January 2020 to Crediton Milling Company where she has been busy furthering her knowledge of poultry nutrition.  

“Many people have taken this last year as an opportunity to step back, but Harriet has used the time to further her training at an increased pace,” said Andrew Power, director of Crediton Milling. 

“She has set up Zoom meetings which will benefit our whole team and customers – and really embraced the new normal.  

“This has meant much more information has found its way to producers than before she joined.”

Harriet is now in the final year of distance learning studies for an MSc in applied poultry science at SRUC. 

Her tutor, Victoria Sandilands, said Harriet is working on a project to look at how pandemics affect consumer buying power – “quite topical. We look forward to reading her thesis in the spring”.

To further her career and help support egg producers she would love to invest in a “Crackless Egg’ – electronic eggs that can be put into the nest boxes and run throughout the system to the packer. The egg detects vibrations to determine where cracks are caused.   

“This technology has the potential to save producers hundreds of pounds,” said Harriet. “Issues can be pinpointed and rectified, and the number of downgrades improved.”