By MICHAEL POLLITT
, Agricultural editor
Saturday, December 8, 2012
East Anglia poultry farm manager Rachel Almey has won the top industry training award.
She was presented with a trophy, framed certificate and a £2,000 training grant by farming minister David Heath at the House of Commons at the British Poultry Council’s annual awards.
Rachel, 26, who is the second successive East Anglian winner to win the Pfizer poultry award of the year, took her parents to tour London and also to the ceremony.
She had been brought up on a poultry farm, which was then run by her father, Stuart Almey, at Beechamwell, near Swaffham. “I suppose you could say that I’ve been living with poultry since I was a toddler,” she said.
After leaving school in 2003, she worked for her father for three years and later moved to Hempnall, near Norwich. There, she worked in a garage but in 2009 started working in Vion’s processing plant at Eye.
With her experience of looking after chickens on a Breckland farm, she grasped the opportunity to manage the Vion food group’s unit at Laxfield. Her first flock of broilers grown to higher welfare standards broke the company’s record for performance.
One of the judging panel, Stuart Andrews, of Pfizer Animal Health, said it was her passion for poultry and the ability to benefit from further training at a key stage in her career that had been key factors.
Vion’s regional broiler manager, Werner Strydom, added: “Rachel does not miss anything and this is what makes her such an exceptional farm manager. With continued support, she will be one of our bright stars for a long time to come.”
Rachel said that her father, who now runs a broiler farm at nearby Brundish, with her mother, Penny as his assistant, thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
“Dad was not overly keen to go to London and kept saying that he couldn’t leave the farm but they were so pleased that they came because it was an amazing day in London.
“I nearly passed out when they were about to announce the award. My whole body was shaking,” she added.
And she also won £500 as a prize. “That was a surprise, I was shocked,” said Rachel, who is now planning a Christmas shopping expedition to get some boots with her partner and boss, Matthew Nicholls, who is a production manager with Vion.
She is completing an NVQ level 3 work-based diploma in agriculture through Mid-Norfolk based Poultec Training. She plans to use the training grant to pursue her interest in bird welfare and learn more about the breeding and veterinary side of the business.
The runner-up, Greg Pennington, has worked for Oaklands Farm Eggs for four years in Telford, Shropshire. Now, he runs a unit at Harper Adams University College at Newport where 66,000 hens live in enriched colonies. He has researched their behaviour and performance through the 24-hour cycle and compared this with hens in a barn system at Oaklands.
The Pfizer Trainee of the Year Award is chosen by a judging panel comprising Philip Clarke, editor of Poultry World; Richard Griffiths, of the BPC; John Newton, of Adas, and Stuart Andrews.