Goshen native Sara Davis top competitor at Big E llama show in West Springfield
Former Goshen resident Sara Davis and her llama, Toledo Machito, compete in the halter class last week at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHASE HUNTER Purchase photo reprints »
WEST SPRINGFIELD — For 22 years, Sara Davis has been attending the Llama Show at the Eastern States Exposition.
On Sept. 28, Davis and her 14-year old llama, a gelding called Toledo Machito, landed second place in the Adult Advanced Showmanship class and ninth in the nonbreeding halter class.
No small feat, considering the size of the competition.
“This is the largest llama show on the East coast,” said Betsy Booth, the show’s superintendent. “When we started out 22 years ago, we only had 21 animals, now we have about 160 competing,” she said.
This year’s show drew competitors from several states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
Booth also noted that the caliber of the animals and the skill of the owners has gone up as well.
“Sara was about 8 years old when she first came to this show,” Booth said. “She started out as a little kid here and has grown up to be the superintendant of her own show at the Tri (Three) County Fair,” she said.
Davis and her husband Carl oversaw the llama show at Northampton’s Three County Fair for three years, from 2005 to 2008, but took some time off when their first child was born two years ago.
“I grew up on a farm in Goshen. It used to be a dairy farm, but then the price of feed went up, and the price of milk went down, so we had to sell the cows,” Davis said. “In the late ’80s we got llamas,” she said.
Davis got her start in local shows then moved into the regional and national competitions. Toledo Machito is a competitor that has a lot of what it takes to be a winner. A handsome chocolate colored llama, he has good bone structure, a nice top line and strong back and legs, said Davis. He has placed very well in every show he has entered, she said, and has earned his Alpaca Llama Show Association Non-Breeder Recognition of Merit and his Champion Certificate.
According to Davis, llamas have a gentle disposition, are typically healthy and relatively easy to care for. Their wool can be used for fiber, but they are also used as therapy animals, pack animals and for guarding other animals, such as sheep.
Davis is a consultant and trainer for llamas and their owners and has the Camelidynamics Handler Seal. Camelidynamics is a popular method that is used to handle and train alpacas and llamas.
In 2005, Davis left Goshen after earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science at UMass.
She and her husband began farming in 2006 and raise Boer goats on the Oak Hollow Farm in Winchendon. Their all-natural goat meat can be found at the River Valley Market in Northampton.
Toledo lives happily with the goats and serves in part as a guard animal protecting the herd.
“My mom still keeps llamas in Goshen and Toledo’s mother, Bonita, is still up there.”
Bonita belongs to Davis’ mother, Lynn Lenker, and lives on the Barrus Farm on Spruce Corner Road owned by Lenker’s fiancee Tim Barrus.
“Bonita was one of seven llamas we rescued that all had names ending in ‘ita’,” Lenker said. “She is getting up there in age, but she is still with us.”
While Davis says there was once a strong upsurge in people jumping on the llama bandwagon, interest has leveled off.
“That’s probably a good thing because the people that are involved now are really dedicated and knowledgeable and they care about the animals,” she said.