STOCKMAN of the Year winners quite often come from a regular consignment of regions. Ayrshire have often done quite well, Lanarkshire are the same, Clyde and Central regularly top the boards... To get overall individual winners from Dumfries and Galloway, however, you need to delve back a bit further in the archives.

If you go to 1983, you find Jim Neil. A Stewartry club member and representing Dumfries and Galloway, the then 24-year-old Jim ran away with the 'Stockman of the Year' title, after six years of trying.

Having come third overall in 1982, and been a member of several teams, Jim was over the moon to lift the top award and take it home to the south-west.

He explained: "Dumfries and Galloway always struggled against your Lanarkshires and your Ayrshires, so to take the individual title really was special in a lot of ways.

"There were always a more people representing those clubs and in many ways they maybe took it more seriously than us, but that year I really did try and put the work in to try and compete a bit and – thankfully – it worked out!"

The D&G team had trained hard in the run up to the Royal Highland Show in 1983, putting in the hours and being strict with their practice regime.

"Jim Ross from Romesbeoch was one of our trainers that year, I remember," Jim told the SF, "and he was quite a hard taskmaster. It seemed tough at the time but it was obviously worth it in the end. He was especially good at correcting your mistakes and explaining where you were going wrong!"

Jim, who then lived at Boreland Of Balmaghie near Castle Douglas then had Charollais sheep, Charolais cattle and a commercial dairy herd, at home, so he had a good selection of practice material without having to go too far.

"Sometimes that seems to be the issue for some really good stock judging competitors," explained Jim, "they have an element that lets them down – whether that be beef, dairy or sheep. Being a master of judging all three is the really hard bit to get right."

Jim moved from Dumfries and Galloway to the Borders ten years ago this year and now lives at Runningburn, near Kelso.

He firmly believes that 'The Stockman of the Year' competition is the best competition in the Young Farmers structure, and thoroughly recommends taking part to any young person. Like many people, he heralds its ability to help you meet people and often make lifelong friends.

He is still involved in the Young Farmers, and is heading to Ingliston next week to judge part of the stocksmanship programme on the Saturday of this years' show.

He also admits however, that the individual overall title is far from easy win to achieve: "In a lot of ways, it really the luck of the draw how you got on on the day. You could have practised all you wanted, if it doesn't work out perfect when it comes to the crunch, then that's that, unfortunately. You get one chance a year and that's only for a set number of years!

"I had been trying for years to do it and when I finally did, it was just fantastic. It was by far the biggest achievement of my Young Farmers career, and it ranks pretty high up, generally. I still have the plaque up in my office all these years later!"