The 'Stockman of the Year' competition is an annual highlight of the Royal Highland Show for Young Farmers, literally showcasing the best the country has to offer in stocksmanship.

The competition remains a much vaunted and wanted honour, as its rigorous schedule means that it is only given to the very cream of the crop.

This year marks 50 years of the competition in its current form and as this year's show rolls in, we're taking a look back at past winners. A fitting start to this is Robert Fleming, who won the prize in 1969, the very first 'Stockman of the Year' in its current format – though there were forerunners prior to that.

As a 23-year-old and then a member of Lesmahagow YFC, competing for the Lanarkshire team, Robert had taken second place in 1968 in the competition in its previous form. He then attended a seminar about the new 'Stockman of the Year' programme, in Perth, with his friend, Tom Templeton and the pair returned home determined to give the new competition their best shot.

And so it proved, when, in 1969, Robert and Tom won the inaugural team competition for Lanarkshire along with Jimmy Warnock (the current RHASS chairman), Jim Boyd, Hugh Stuart and Wullie Hamilton – and Robert took the individual title.

"In those days, the show started on a Tuesday and the competition was run over two days during the week," Robert told The Scottish Farmer. "Lanarkshire were the first team to start really intensive training in the run up to the show. We travelled to farms outwith the area to judge stock we couldn't get locally – we really did train hard and take it seriously."

Robert, who at that time lived on the family farm at the famed High Boreland, at Lesmahagow, moved to farm at Hillhead at Kirkpatrick Fleming in 2002, running a successful Holstein herd and flock of Suffolks that has sold ram lambs up to 45,000gns in 2004.

He admitted that winning the Stockman of the Year prize remains one of his proudest moments. Robert said: "It meant an awful lot to me to win and it still does. I was very keen on my stock judging and we had a great team of boys at that time and we all worked very hard for it.

"The competition really made you want to prove your worth and I've been continuing to try and prove my worth ever since! It really instilled in you hard work and dedication when it came to stock. It set a standard."

He continued: "The competition itself is still held in high regard and rightly so. It's the very pinnacle of Young Farmers stock judging and I think it's the best competition to win in the Young Farmers, full stop. I feel privileged to have won it and to know a lot of great winners of it since my day and it's something I hope continues for another 50 years!"