@ theunrulyhound: yes! not all the time, but we did drink the (pasturized) milk & make cheese out of it. we actually got pigs & a few feeder calves to dispose of all the extra milk. one family can only drink so much, & you can't sell it unless you had an official dairy of over 30 milkers or something & a lot more equipment.
goat tastes a lot like good venison, rather than lamb, in case anyone is wondering. :)
as for fencing, we actually did electric! four strings i think, & it was solar powered, so not a lot of cost. PLEASE do not use barbed wire though - shouldn't ever be used for livestock. they'll seriously damage themselves if they touch it.
we used to use stockpanel to keep the other animals in - craaaazy cheap stuff.
Completely different rules etc here in the UK but please do one thing - get two or three, not just one. They are a herd animal :) A handful of miniature ones would be better than one massive beast.
When you referred to a cow, I assumed you wanted to milk her, but upon reading your post, it looks like what you actually want is a steer. I've had steers, and I've had goats, but I've never owned a cow. Beware if you've never butchered an animal you've owned personally; it's one of the hardest thing you'll ever do. I raised my steers from babies, and I ended up selling them all, just couldn't eat them. I had the same problem with my pigs and goats, and the chickens and geese I butchered turned me off from poultry meat for about 3 years. Since then, I only raise chickens for eggs, and buy my grass fed beef and pastured pork from farmers. Don't underestimate the softness of your heart when it comes to killing something that reacted with pleasure to your presence every morning. It's tougher than you think.
Had a think and came up with a couple of things that could apply regardless of geography :)
If you want this to be a long term project, you could buy a cow and her calf, and set up a rotation where she gives birth to a new calf the spring after you've slaughtered the eldest calf. Depending how big you want the carcass, it could be a 2-3 year rotation or even longer. However if she produced a female calf you may want to reconsider.
Or you could buy a couple of steers as-and-when.
Sounds obvious, but if you want milk she needs to be in-calf or have a calf - so you'd have that youngster to raise, eat, or sell anyhow. (Not meaning to sound patronising, even I've had moments of forgetting that :D )
Depending on the quality of your ground and pasture, consider your choice of breed carefully. A traditional, hardy, native-type (again not sure what is around where you live?) will do better on poorer ground and will need less mollycoddling. A modern beef breed needs a lot more input. Consider it the difference between your free range chicken with the brains to keep itself safe, vs the modern broiler chicken that probably wouldn't survive outside the system.
Talking of chickens, would it be worth testing your emotional response to slaughter . butchery by raising and killing a couple of chickens first?
[QUOTE=Willow_NyteEyes;88868]Cows are slow and placid animals... you don't need big strong fencing like you would for horses or pigs. Look into pole & wire fencing. Tons cheaper than chain-link or plank and it you make the top wire electric the cow will just avoid the fence completely.[/QUOTE]
My family raised cows for years -- we slaughtered one a year -- and I have to disagree about them not being hard on fences. Cattle may be placid, but they're also massive, with tough hides. T-posts (plus good, braced, pole corners and anchors) with field fence, topped with barbed wire and an electric strand, is about as good as it gets, but they'll still scratch and lean on the fences, resulting in the need for frequent maintenance.
If you want meat that's relatively easy on fences, try sheep. :)