I hear a lot of people on this site talking about becoming self-sufficient with animals. The problem is that nursing goats cost a lot in feed and supplements/ fencing etc. Making cheese requires initial start-up costs of good equipment. Butchering a cow is very expensive. It can't really be called self-sufficiency unless little to no cost is involved, can it? The only way I can see it balancing out somewhat is if the produce/meat/milk/cheese was sold to make up cost. Then it just gets complicated. I don't want to have to put in a significantly greater amount in start-up/maintenance costs than I will get out of it.
Well feed for the milking animals - the cow costs $80 a month to feed, saves me $200 a month in milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese for my family of 8. Plus I trade milk for eggs3-6 dozen a week. Plus some people bring me bags of feed for the cow in exchange for milk. I get 3-4 gal every morning (with 2-3 inches of cream) & she nurses her calf all day. Fencing - lots of choices from freecycle/craigslist to expensive as you want to go. We make cheese with no special equipment - do have a homemade press in the works. Butchered a bull for $190 - next time we'll do it ourselves. (500lbs of grass fed meat) We butcher our chickens & rabbits. Yeah, our money goes into feeding our animals - instead of spending at the grocery store.
Our reasons for wanting self sufficiency with raising animals (and gardening) is less driven by the financial end than the desire to eat food that is fresh and GMO, growth hormone, antibiotic free. I don't trust the quality of food in the stores or where it is all headed. We are complete novices but hopefully moving towards a place where we can provide a good deal of what we need in a healthier way....
It's pretty much impossible to be completely self-sufficient but you do the best you can.
I believe you can usually sell raw milk as "animal food" legally. If the customers drink it themselves rather than feed it to animals, it's not really your "problem."
In Montana, where I live, its even illegal to do this. Its actually illegal to possess raw milk. I mean, give me a break, right?!
We find that the act of raising our own food is enough payment. The lessons our kids (and us as grown-ups) learn are priceless.
We do all our own butchering, and like a pp said, anything we sell is extra. If you have enough people/freezer space, you can butcher a cow on your own. Goats and pigs are NO problem, neither are rabbits, chickens, guineas, or ducks. (or deer). We don't use any special equipment, and my dh rarely uses the nice knife set I bought him, although my dd does. Dh uses an Old Hickory knife I got from my mom 20 years ago, and she'd had it forever. He also uses his folding utility knife, so we buy razor blades, which are cheap (ds got him a 500 pack for Christmas that will probably last a couple of years at least). We use buckets and coolers and those are easy enough to come by. The most expensive thing I've bought was my foodsaver.
Having our meats secured makes us feel SO much better.
As for cheese-making, there are plenty of simple cheeses you can make w/nothing more specialized than some good butter muslin. And a cheese press is easy enough--there are major easy instructions on the internet. I posted a link to the one I'm making in another thread. I think all we have to buy is a small piece of pvc. Any whey I don't use for ricotta or soaking beans or making bone stock will go to either the pigs or the chickens. Nothing gets wasted.
Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids : dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)