Hidden away from the ever bustling Main Street in Milford, over 50 llamas reside on a 70 acre farm that overlooks the region's wondrous views. Located on the outskirts of Milford, Richard Snyder, owner of Snyder Quality Llamas has bred and raised the animals since 1985.
Llamas, Snyder said, have an "elegant" persona that he likes. While not every llama is elegant, He said that the description fits the ones he breed. Their elegance transfers with how they carry themselves and present a gracefulness, he explained.
A retired corporate executive, Snyder moved to the region 28 years ago. He decided to go with llamas because they aren't that difficult to care for. He said with the help of his farm manager, Joe Myers, an automatic watering system and a plentiful supply of hay, it's that simple. Also a plus, maintaining the animals' dung isn't hard because they use community dung piles. The llamas, he said, would cross all four of their legs before doing their business without a dung pile as that is their bathroom.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in the northeast, Snyder didn't enjoy farming as a child. As an adult in this region, however, he stated he had a "feeling for the land." In addition, after taking a landscape design course at New York Botanic Garden, the land was initially like a "canvas that I could paint on," he stated. Over the years, Snyder has planted 900,000 trees and shrubs.
Initially, the llama farm started with three who happened to be pregnant. He said that llamas are "like potato chips because you can't have just one." There was actually a time when Snyder had 125 on his farm. Although llamas aren't that difficult to take care of, they still require time and as a hotel owner, Snyder has cut back his numbers. He said that he "can't imagine life without them." Today, Snyder has a diversified herd with some that are just a few months old, to some that are "geriatric llamas" because they are over 20 years old, he explained. The colors and patterns on the llamas vary animal to animal too.
Aside from breeding his own llamas, in 1994, Snyder actually imported three from Chili, and today one still survives. Offspring from the three that were imported still reside at the farm.
Once a year, the llamas' fiber is sheered. Similar to camel hair, Snyder said the fiber is light and is a good insulator. Even though there is a high luster, however, the quality varies animal to animal. When the fiber is sheered through a co-op that collects fiber from llama owners, the fiber is sent to various states that make use of a mill in Canada to turn the fiber into socks. In Texas, rugs and carpets are made from the fiber.
Yearly, Snyder travels to the Big E in West Springfield Massachusetts to show his gems at the fair. There are different classes that the llamas are judged in that include comparing one animal to another, looking at their presence and how they do with the guidance from a handler. Plus, there is showmanship, where judges look at how the llama has been groomed. Through the years, Snyder has had grand champions, with Lord Nelson being the most recent winner.
Page 2 of 2 - On July 28th, the annual Open Barn Day took place at Snyder's farm where tours of his property along with plenty of opportunities to pet the many llamas took place. When he first started Open Barn Day in 2000, only 30 people showed up. This year the day was dampened because of the rain. In the past few years, Snyder said the day has become like a football game with cars streaming the driveway and hundreds of people showing up.
Llamas, Snyder said are "fun and very interesting." Actually, he finds the animals to be calming and they are referred to as "Zen type animals" because of their calm personalities. He added that they are "great to be around."
For further information about Snyder's Quality Llamas visit: http://www.snyderqualityllamas.com/.