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Hands on: This budding entrepreneur and would-be veterinarian thinks goats are cool

 

Collier Hardy, 16, of Columbus gets some loving Wednesday from, front to back, Pandora, Atlas, Cupid and Moon in a goat run at the family farm. The Heritage Academy sophomore raises dairy goats for sale, milk and cheese production. Collier's parents are Mark and Charlotte Hardy.

Collier Hardy, 16, of Columbus gets some loving Wednesday from, front to back, Pandora, Atlas, Cupid and Moon in a goat run at the family farm. The Heritage Academy sophomore raises dairy goats for sale, milk and cheese production. Collier's parents are Mark and Charlotte Hardy. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

Collier Hardy milks Sinner Wednesday as her dad, Mark Hardy, bonds with Storm in the background. Mark built the goat barn and milking platform. Sinner is a Lamancha, a dairy goat breed distinctive for their tiny ears.

Collier Hardy milks Sinner Wednesday as her dad, Mark Hardy, bonds with Storm in the background. Mark built the goat barn and milking platform. Sinner is a Lamancha, a dairy goat breed distinctive for their tiny ears.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Wynona gets a treat from Collier Hardy Wednesday. Wynona is a Lamancha. Percy, checking out the photographer, is a Nigerian Dwarf.

Wynona gets a treat from Collier Hardy Wednesday. Wynona is a Lamancha. Percy, checking out the photographer, is a Nigerian Dwarf.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Collier's Mount Olympus Goats give milk for production of both a sweet honey goat cheese and a savory herb cheese, shown here with fresh herbs from Charlotte Hardy's garden.

Collier's Mount Olympus Goats give milk for production of both a sweet honey goat cheese and a savory herb cheese, shown here with fresh herbs from Charlotte Hardy's garden.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

When Collier Hardy went to her parents, Mark and Charlotte Hardy, asking for goats a few years ago, her dad was pretty clever. Mark told his daughter to first come up with a business plan for how the animals could pay for themselves. Then, they'd talk about it. At the time, he thought that might well end the matter. Collier was, after all, only 13.  

 

"I told her we didn't need any more freeloaders than we already had," he now says with a grin, thinking about the family's rural Lowndes County farm rich in critters. 

 

But Collier was not deterred. 

 

"She did it," Mark said. "And it showed she'd thought it out well." 

 

His daughter explained, "I made a business plan: I would sell the cheese and make soap and everything I could make, and also how much I could sell the goats for." 

 

The plan seems to be working, if the 14 dairy goats now clamoring each morning to greet Collier at their pens are anything to go by.  

 

 

 

Goats of Mount Olympus 

 

Animals are nothing new to this emerging entrepreneur. Collier, now 16, grew up around cattle and horses. The Heritage Academy sophomore hopes to become a veterinarian one day, specializing in large animals.  

 

And goats?  

 

"Well, I just always found them interesting and thought they were cool," she said. 

 

After conducting her research and with support from her parents, the teen started with two animals and began to build a herd. It's comprised today of Nigerian Dwarf, Lamancha and Miniature Lamancha goats, all registered with the American Dairy Goat Association.  

 

Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature breed of West African ancestry, popular as milkers and even pets. Sturdy Lamanchas are best known for their distinctively tiny ears, even temperament and production of milk relatively high in butterfat.  

 

Because Collier was a fan of author Rick Riordan's adventure novels about fictional Percy Jackson and the world of Greek mythology, she chose the name Mount Olympus Goats for her enterprise. Names she bestowed on her goats fit the theme -- Atlas, Pandora, Hercules and Cupid, to name a few.  

 

Then, there's Willie Pete, with a habit of nibbling at his humans' pants legs to demand the attention he's due. Storm has a paper fetish but is also a pushover for vanilla wafers. Wynona is uniquely picky about who she likes, but she has her weakness as well. "She won't come to cookies, but she'll wear a Dorito out," Mark said. 

 

Each animal reveals its engaging personality over time, something that helps keep Collier motivated when milking and feeding time rolls around every morning. 

 

 

 

Daily work 

 

With three does currently giving milk, Collier heads out to the barn early. Milking, by hand, is done generally March through September. Daily chores also entail feeding, cleaning and filling water buckets, plus filling hay bags. Mark pitches in during the school months when needed. Any planned breeding takes place in winter, with new babies arriving about five months later. 

 

With help from large animal veterinarian Dr. Brett Weseli and Brandy Johnson of Veterinary Services, and from the Mississippi State University vet school, Collier is learning all she can about maintaining herd health, which includes regular deworming and other preventive care. She's even learned how to dehorn the goats herself.  

 

With an eye toward a future in veterinary medicine, Collier sometimes assists Weseli and Johnson in their work. Johnson is a goat owner, too, and glad to share information.  

 

"It's amazing to see a girl that age that gets so involved with animals," Johnson said. "She's so smart and so talented and wants to go to vet school. Every piece of advice or tidbit of knowledge, she soaks it up like a sponge. She works hard, and I'm so proud of her."  

 

 

 

That business plan 

 

Even as Collier learns more about goatherding, she's getting increasingly grounded in the business side of things -- expenses and income, managing a budget, weighing decisions. With the help of her mother, they're making Mount Olympus Goats cheese for family and friends and hope to offer it soon at area farmers markets. They are experimenting with making soaps, and researching lotions. 

 

"And I've sold nine goats so far," Collier said. "I've got goats in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee." 

 

Collier's persistence is paying off. That's not to say it's been easy. The hardest times have been when a goat gets sick. There's also balancing schoolwork, basketball and social life.  

 

"My friends have pretty much gotten used to it," smiled Collier about occasions she has to knock out a chore before she can join them. "They just laugh and say 'Come on when you can.'" 

 

And what about those mornings it's just hard to get out of bed and pull on the work boots? 

 

"Sometimes I just think of the little babies that I want to go play with ... " 

 

Collier is at the center of Mount Olympus Goats, but it couldn't happen without a team. Dad Mark built the barn and pens. Mom Charlotte has logged more miles than she can count with hay bales, feed -- and yes, goats -- in a family vehicle. Sister Carlton, 14, lends support, too.  

 

Charlotte said, "It's been satisfying just watching the process of her learning to work, learning the value of a dollar and learning life lessons of responsibility." 

 

When Collier looks ahead, she envisions attending the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. She wants to keep the goat operation manageably small until she's out of college. 

 

"And I would really like to one day have a rescue for dairy goats," she said.  

 

Hear that, mom and dad?

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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