FINALIST 2: MARTIN WOMACK
Martin Womack was working in the building trade when he learned from a friend of an opportunity to try his hand looking after chickens – and four years on, he has never looked back.
The Harvey family were seeking to replace the poultry manager who was retiring on the family’s two broiler growing units at Bunwell in south Norfolk. Tim Harvey’s son, Tom, happened to mention this to Martin, the idea appealed and with help from the Harveys, he took on the task.
Whether you speak to Martin’s employer, Tim, Banham Poultry broiler fieldsman Chris Darkins or the training providers Poultec Training, you’ll hear the same story. How quickly he got to grips with the duties and how keen he was to learn all about poultry husbandry.
Martin could certainly have picked an easier unit to start. The flocks of 92,000 birds are kept in 10 different houses on two sites, and there is a natural ventilation system, which requires a degree of manual dexterity in maintaining an ideal environment for the birds.
Side inlets are automatically controlled, but the roof vents and fans require manual adjustment. The bonus is the natural daylight, which they all believe keeps the birds more active and healthy.
Albert Harvey founded the business 60 years ago and the Harvey family has its own processing facilities specialising in end-of-lay hens and breeding stock to supply a wide range of customers. The broilers, however, are grown for Banham Poultry, a few miles away at Attleborough and the two companies have had a strong relationship for many years.
The Bunwell units produce heavy broilers, mostly cockerels reared to 1.8-3.2kg at up to 49 days of age. The family produces consistently good results, due in no small measure, says Mr Darkins, to the conscientious approach of Martin and his attention to fine detail.
How has training so far benefited your working?
Since completing my NVQ, I have a greater knowledge of the industry and a confidence I didn’t have before. I have the confidence, for example, to carry out jobs on the farm such as vaccination and ventilation management. I have now been given the responsibility of running the farm by myself.
What kind of training would you choose to further your career?
The Institute of Leadership and Management Level 2 award in team leading – this will help me in many parts of the work including the financial and legal aspects.
What special contribution does the candidate make to the business?
Martin is a committed employee. He takes the training seriously and would always produce masses of evidence in preparation for the Poultec visits. He has demonstrated his commitment to making a career in the poultry industry, and the results on the farm have continued to improve during his time with us taking us, I understand, into Banham Poultry’s top 10 units.
How has training benefited the performance of the unit?
Since passing his apprenticeship and Level 3 NVQ, Martin has gained the knowledge and skills to look after the poultry unit and to work with much more confidence. This has in turn given us the confidence to allow him to run the poultry unit on his own. The training has increased his knowledge of the procedures required to run a successful broiler unit and ensure that animal welfare best practice is always followed.
What first impressed Norfolk training provider Poultec Training about Martin Womack was his eagerness to learn and get everything right.
Poultec agricultural assessor Nigel Mendham says Martin was a rather nervous lad completely new to the poultry industry. But he found that from the start, Martin showed “massive enthusiasm” in tackling the Apprenticeship in Livestock Production course, which he finished in February 2006, moving on to the NVQ Level 3 qualification completed in March this year.
The apprenticeship took in NVQ Level 2 in Livestock Production [poultry], key skills Level 1 in application of number, communication and IT skills, first aid and a short course in poultry welfare.
“As an assessor it was an easy task for me,” says Mr Mendham. “Martin was always asking questions, wanting to know more and to learn everything about the job.”
He was impressed with how quickly Martin was putting into effect things he had learned. “While studying the hygiene and biosecurity component of the course, for instance, he put into practice many more foot dips and brought in a visitors book at the front gate rather than the office so that visitors could be checked before entering the premises.”
The NVQ qualification now takes Martin up to management level and he is able to complete all the necessary paperwork himself for Assured Chicken Production (ACP) audits on the farm.