We're nearing the end of our 35-day breeding season. We'll take the bulls out a week before the cows go to summer range.

We treated the bull with foot rot, confining him for six days in a corral where we carried him feed and water. When he recovered enough to walk, we put him back with his group of cows and took the spare bull out. We kept track of which cows were bred to that bull, so if we keep a heifer or a bull calf, we'll know the sire.

The main concern in using a bull after recovery from foot rot is that he might have temporary infertility due to the fever that commonly accompanies this condition. Fever adversely affects the formation of sperm being produced during that time.

But, we'll gamble on this bull the rest of our breeding season since it's so short; the infertility comes about 60 days after the fever, when those defective sperm mature.

It's Been A Cold Spring We usually have pasture by late April, but this year we had to stretch our hay longer and buy a few bales. By early May, we were able to take some cows to our 160-acre mountain pasture and a group to another piece of dryland.

Spring is a frenzied time. It's also a time of renewal and hope. We're on the edge of a drought area, but we hope to have moisture for a good grass crop, and enough water in the creek to make the hay - and hopefully irrigate the fields again to grow a little fall pasture for the calves.

We're gambling there will be regrowth this year since our son wants to hold the calves longer and get them a little bigger before sale. We usually sell them in early October, but he opted to hold them until early November.

Calf prices give us cause for optimism; a lot of calves are already being contracted - unusual for this early. This seems a good omen; buyers would be reluctant to commit to a contract if they thought market prices might go down.

The satellite auction representative came last week to video our calves. The cows in the fields came when we called and grouped around us.

We like our cattle gentle. Calm cattle are easy to handle at calving time or when working or sorting them. They also tend to do better in the feedlot than high-strung, untrained cattle, and are more likely to produce tender beef and fewer dark cutters at harvest.

Heather Smith Thomas and her husband Lynn own and operate the Sky Range Ranch in Salmon, ID.