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DAIRY FARMER WORKS FEVERISHLY TO KEEP UP IN EVOLVING INDUSTRY

David Flint, bent over a wagon that sprays sawdust, was applying himself to one of the little-noticed tasks that will enable his family farm to produce milk into the 21st century.

"Replacing a bearing," said Flint, 47. "I do most of my own repair work."

His wife, Cynthia, works off the farm, a frequent practice these days among farm families. She's employed by Wyoming County's Department of Social Services as Medicaid and Medicare supervisor.

"Cindy's pay was a greater percentage of our cash flow when we were a 130-cow farm," Flint said.

And 20 years ago, when Flint began farming on his own with 40 cows, her income was even more of a factor.

Now the Flint Farm, 500 working acres off or near Route 20-A, is much larger. After 16 years of ownership, its bridge to the 21st century is the new L-shaped, free-stall barn with rubber mattresses for 300 cows and easily expandable for more when the time is right.

The expansion from a 40-cow, 70-cow and 130-cow tie-stall operation to the larger free-stall arrangement has been a big change for the Flint family. At least 10 other area dairy farmers are investing in similar expansions. "They are not running away from the dairy industry," Flint said. "They may not get rich, but they choose to live as dairy farmers."

Next to the barn is a new double-10 milking parlor, where Flint expects to introduce one-man milking.

Like any business operator, Flint went into greater debt to make way for all the tomorrows. Declining to detail the amount, he said: "Because we wanted to continue farming, we had to expand to stay competitive."

The new barn is just one part of Flint's effort to keep up with the evolving dairy world. Other parts of the package include the new milking parlor, the bunker silo, the selective use of bovine growth hormone, the control of labor costs and the purchasing of quality cows.

Andrew Flint, 27, works with his father. In addition, the Flints have three full-time workers and two part-time milkers.

But the farm's labor efficiency just took a temporary hit. Son Jamie, 18, just started a two-year dairy science course at SUNY Morrisville. Jamie, a June graduate of Warsaw Central School, was the first $50,000 winner of the Mark Strome scholarship awarded to a Warsaw graduate for initiative, diligence and strong work ethics.

Jamie is a skilled cattle judge. For example, he won ribbons at this year's State Fair and was selected for the New York State dairy cattle judging team.

"When we bought our new heifers for the expansion, Jamie picked them," Flint said. "He picked one of every three he saw. They are now coming into production."

"My wife, Cindy, feeds calves before and after her own job," Flint said. "She is my secretary, bookkeeper and overall boss."

Right now the Flints are limited to two-a-day milkings. "When we get smoothed out and the fall crops are in, we plan to milk three times a day," Flint said.

He is now drilling to improve his water supply and hoping for a late frost to give the late-planted corn a chance to mature.

During this hectic transitional period, his seven-day work schedule begins at 4 a.m. and ends at about 10 p.m. But he's not complaining.

"We'll get through that and any other problems," he said. "We always have."

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