A University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Chancellor’s Leadership Council student earned a national award that is the result of years of hard work that began at the age of six.

Jack Gray of Booneville received a national bronze ranking from Future Farmers of America (FFA) for beef production after winning first place in the state competition. This award recognizes how well students are able to manage a herd of cattle, being profitable, making improvements in areas such as birth ratio and growth rate and learning and improving each year.

Following his first place award at the state level, FFA sent Gray suggestions on how he could improve his portfolio through the agricultural experience tracker, which is a website that tracks metrics such as time invested, money invested, money earned, skills learned, and is even used to keep track of your herd and their offspring. He then improved his portfolio and submitted it for a beef production award at the national level and took bronze.

The award marked the culmination of years of hard work that started when Gray was six years old. His grandmother would give him money after the livestock competition at the local fair to help with expenses and to motivate him to continue such a good leadership experience.

Gray began his career in livestock at six years old by showing pigs at a pig and livestock show. Every year he would take the money his grandmother had given him, along with his winnings from the pig at the livestock show, and buy a heifer at an auction.

Gray would breed these heifers every year with the help of his dad to save heifers and sell the bulls to make more money to buy more heifers. After a few years, Gray changed over from showing pigs to showing one of the heifers from his herd every year.

By the time he was a high school senior, Gray had developed a small cattle herd and was making a large profit by selling their calves.

Gray says his success and passion for cattle farming developed from watching his dad and grandfather on their cattle farm at a young age.

“Ever since I was old enough to walk and go outside, I have been with my dad and grandpa when they work or feed cows,” Gray said. “My grandpa would pay me to help him with his cattle when I got old enough to be helpful. My involvement on our family farm caused me to love working with cattle and also gave me the opportunity to see the financial benefits of owning them.”

FFA is an intracurricular national student organization for high school students interested in agriculture and leadership opportunities.