John Nicholls from Cargill, Annabelle Heath, and John Reed, BPC chairman.

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 of the Year Award. 

Ms Heath was presented with the award, which includes a £2,000 training grant from Zoetis and £500 cash prize from Poultry World, by junior environment minister Mark Spencer at the annual British Poultry Council (BPC) awards ceremony at the House of Commons on 8 December. 

Before she joined Cargill Meats Europe at Hereford 18 months ago, Ms Heath 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,” she said.

See also: Poultry Trainee of the Year finalists under the spotlight

“But after I’d spent three months on a YFC scholarship in New Zealand, I was looking for a career in agriculture and the opportunity came up with Cargill.”

Her nomination for the Trainee of the Year Award came from Nicholas Ham, Cargill’s 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.”

Ms Heath, who was brought up near Telford on a mixed farm with a 120,000-broiler unit, is working towards a national vocational diploma level 3 in poultry production with Poultec Training. 

She was recently accepted into Tesco’s Future Farmers Foundation, a 12-month training programme 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 behaviour has such a huge impact”. 

Runners-up for the award were Laura Addison, who works in the PD Hook hatchery at Dalton, North Yorkshire; Andrew Bumfrey, who manages a turkey farm for Bernard Matthews in Norfolk; and Daniel Roberts, who is a trainee area manager for Faccenda Foods in Oxfordshire.

James Porritt, Zoetis poultry manager for UK and Ireland, said the award, now in its ninth year, supported career opportunities in the poultry sector, which were “some of the best in the whole farming industry”.

“Many companies provide a structured career ladder and can take young people with ability and vision right to the top,” he said.