From growing up on a dairy farm to leading research efforts around hoof health and lameness, Dr. Gerard Cramer has devoted his life to improving the quality of life for dairy cows.

Cramer ran a dairy himself, as well as a foot health-specialized veterinary practice before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 2013. He serves as associate professor of dairy production medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, splitting his time between educating veterinary and graduate students and doing foot health-related research.

Progressive Dairy recently posed these questions to Cramer, regarding his past and current work, and the impact he is driven to create in the dairy industry through his intense study of dairy cattle hoof health and lameness.

What are the main focuses of your research right now, related to dairy cattle lameness and hoof health?

CRAMER: The aims of my research and outreach work in lameness are to influence change in the dairy industry and be at the forefront of creating the best evidence for these changes. Currently, we are working in four main areas:

  1. How stakeholders in lameness interact and see their roles
  2. Using electronic hoof-trimming records to evaluate questions that are hard to answer in a randomized clinical study
  3. Creating a challenge model to give cows sole ulcers so we can evaluate interventions and improve our understanding of horn lesions
  4. Evaluating automatic lameness detection methods

Which discoveries, reports or research that you or your department have done in the past five years do you believe is most useful and applicable for dairy farmers?

CRAMER: In the past five years, we’ve shown that in herds which have digital dermatitis relatively well controlled, the number of cows that truly get new lesions such as ulcers and white-line disease is much lower than we thought. The majority of lame cows that exist on these farms are typically cows with a history of lameness. These chronic cows are the ones that have reduced fertility and longevity.


From these same studies, we’ve learned that cows which do develop new hoof lesions have lower lying time early in lactation already, and this likely starts during the transition period. We have also learned that how cows are trimmed can reduce lameness and how we manage cows on trimming day influences their behavior and milk production loss after trimming day.

Other applicable research findings have looked at the withdrawal period necessary for tetracycline and salicylic acid treatments for digital treatments.

Describe the impact you hope your research has on the dairy industry.

CRAMER: I honestly believe the dairy industry has the knowledge and tools to reduce the impact of lameness already, and what is lacking is a systematic approach from all stakeholders. My long-term goal is to create a network of interested stakeholders that create a feedback loop integrating research, outreach and on-farm activities.

With the data being collected on farms routinely by hoof trimmers, there is a huge opportunity to use that data as the basis for evaluating intervention on the farm and within our industry. It is my hope that by encouraging a systematic approach and more communication between stakeholders, cows will have less lameness and cows that do go lame will recover quickly without becoming chronically lame.