For the second year running the Pfizer Pig Trainee of the Year is awarded to a female winner while the Pfizer Poultry Trainee of the Year award goes to Scotland for the first time.
The pig award is won by Kate Munro-Ashman who manages a 900-sow outdoor unit in Berkshire and the poultry winner is Benjamin Pollardwho works for one of the leading poultry breeding companies in East Lothian.
The awards, each worth more than £2500 as a training grant, were presented by Anne McIntosh, chairman of the Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at a ceremony at the House of Commons on November 1.
The awards, now in their fourth year, are sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health in conjunction with the journals Pig World and Poultry World, recognising the important role of training in helping UK producers to achieve high animal welfare and food safety standards in an increasingly competitive market.
Kate Munro-Ashman studied at Sparsholt College in Hampshire and Suffolk College, then began working on G Ashman's New Barn Farm, Bucklebury, Reading, in July 2008. The unit she manages producers weaners for MJ & JA Easey. She has continued training in practical and professional management skills through BPEX and the Larkmead Veterinary Group, and would like to use the training grant to progress her accounting knowledge and run training courses for her team.
The three judges, led by Richard Longthorp, chairman of Lantra England, were impressed by the way she had put into practice what she had learned in dramatically turning round the performance on an under-achieving pig unit into impressive levels of output.
“The most telling point was an observation by the winner herself,” said Mr Longthorp. “She commented — 'If it hadn't been for the training to improve my understanding of pigs and the people who look after them, I know that we would not still have been in pigs today' Such a testimony and thirst to continue to gather opinion and ideas from others demonstrates why Kate Munro-Ashman pipped a very strong array of candidates for the award.”
The winner of the Pfizer Poultry Trainee of the Year was again chosen by readers of Poultry World. Benjamin Pollard joined Aviagen from high school in Haddington in 2001 to work in one of the most challenging sectors of the industry — pedigree poultry breeding.
Three years later he became the assistant manager of the firm's Garleton farm, then after narrowly missing out on a management trainee role he was chosen to spend three months working at Aviagen's grandparent breeding stock operation in India. Here he used his abilities and knowledge to help train employees whose skills levels were limited. He is now involved in a six-month project analysing the chicken's growth profile.
Benjamin is studying with the Scottish Agricultural College where after competing training in poultry behaviour and welfare, he is now enrolled on a fast-track S/NVQ level 3 qualification in poultry production. He has also undertaken 11 in-house training programmes at Aviagen from Bobcat and mobile tower to respiratory protection and managing small teams.
Runners-up for the pig award are Helen Hooks, herself a runner-up for the 2008 award, who manages a 550-sow indoor unit producing weaners for the East Anglian Pig Company at Saham Toney, near Thetford, Norfolk, and Peter Hunt, who works with an 750-sow outdoor pig herd for LB & HE Bowker at Cotley Farm, Whimple, Exeter.
Runners-up for the poultry award are Jamie Curston,who has worked for the Vion Food Group for just two years and now manages a small broiler unit at Barcham, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, where his first flock finished third among 29 in the firm's league table, and Lianne Jackson, who gained three 'A' levels before joining Hook2Sisters and has worked on two large broiler units near Scunthorpe before being chosen as one of the company's first management trainees.