As a novice, I can't add much information. I (we, actually) tend to read few books because it gets overwhelming.
I regret not getting into cattle sooner. We used to raise sheep, and I hated every minute of it, as they constantly got through the fence, which wouldn't be so bad, but the pasture is next to a fairly busy road.
My partner talked about getting a cow for a long time. I resisted but eventually made a deal: get rid of sheep, get cow.
I am now in love with an American milking Devon named Belle. Here's a picture of her sire, Rufus:
Rufus is pretty famous. The farmer even has his own Website
about him. Devons are fabulous for small farmers, and they go back to early American history.
Wish I had a pic of Belle. She is so beautiful, stately, matronly. We sold her first calf back to the guy we got her from, as he needed another ox for a team. Then we bought a young heifer (Hannah) from a guy in Massachusetts. I was stunned to see Belle and the new heifer take to each other like natural mother and calf! Now we can't keep her off the tits! We tie them in stanchions apart from each other, but Belle has found a way to swing around to let the calf nurse. Even using a "weaner" didn't work: Belle tolerated it. We get between one and two quarts a day.
We have only 15 acres of grazing land, so our herd will stay small (we also have two horses). We also prefer the dairying over the meat; what beef we have we buy from a local farmer.
People won't buy a quart of milk for $2 now, and I won't just give it away. Post peak, when prices rise, I expect we'll be selling more. Don figures he could milk a maximum of four cows. We've been getting better at making butter, and I'm in the middle of our third experiment with cottage cheese.
Very low tech here: the cows go out to pasture in summer, and they come in the barn in winter and eat hay. Don gives them each about a pound of all-purpose 14 grain a day, to keep them happy.
We also pasture our birds: in the summers, we just open the chicken and turkey house doors and let them spend the day in the orchard (about an acre). Rest of the year we got to keep the feeder full.
This is learn as you go. We'll breed Belle soon, and then Hannah next fall. Keep you posted.