How to Make the Most of Dairy-L

Dairy-L membership now exceeds 1,700 accounts from 40+ countries, all 50 U.S. states, and all 10 Canadian provinces as of December 2011. It is growing by about five subscribers a week. There are approximately five messages per day. That provides for a wide diversity in dairy-management interest and expertise as well as computer experience and points of view. We must remember that courtesy, the avoidance of personal attacks, and a little tolerance will go a long way. 

Certain guidelines have been established by the membership of Dairy-L that are intended to maintain a positive atmosphere. These are not the moderators’ rules; they are guidelines developed by the wishes of longstanding Dairy-L members. If you see something that is needed, please contact one of us.

The Purpose of Dairy-L

Dairy-L was established to provide an electronic forum for seeking and disseminating fact-based information relative to managing dairy cows and dairy herds for people advising the dairy industry. There is wide latitude for interpretation of this purpose, and we have tried to be very tolerant in interpreting what does and doesn’t fit. However, what doesn’t fit is innuendo, speculation, name calling, and messages that are private in nature or provide for financial gain for an individual. Additionally, Dairy-L is for dairy cow/herd management discussions, not dairy food production discussions or a numerous other agriculturally related discussions that are only marginally related to managing the cow or the herd.

Etiquette Guidelines

Avoid personal attacks.

A personal attack is name calling, discussing the merits or otherwise of a person’s family history — you get the picture. If you feel strongly about something that someone said, think about it and respond the next day under a cool head, instead of in the heat of the moment.

Stick to the facts.

Stick to the facts or, at least, label speculation as such. Please do not use Dairy-L as a platform to grandstand a political agenda or emotional issues. We respect that there are opposing points of view, and people have a right to espouse those points of view. We encourage critically constructive discussion. However, discussion should be based in fact; it should not become emotional or involve uncomplimentary remarks about individuals. That is not the purpose of Dairy-L. The moderators reserve the right to cut off discussion on topics when:

  • the discussion is no longer constructive,
  • no new information is being added, or
  • the discussion otherwise gets out of hand.

Keep messages short.

Two screens of text is a good rule of thumb. About 50% of our membership has Internet access through private subscription services. They pay for their service not only through connect time but also by the number of messages they receive and often by the number of words in a message.

Do not include the original message in your response. Refer to the original message instead in the text.

Also, think about which messages are of most interest to all members of the list and which ones are really better being sent privately to one or a few individuals.

Read thoroughly.

Read all of your messages before responding. Often, somebody else has already given the response you are going to send. And, in case of a very heated discussion or personal attacks, if the discussion has died down and you have not read your mail in 10 days, and you respond to an old message, it can have the effect of reigniting the heated discussion needlessly.

Be careful how you word your statements.

If you would not post your message to a community message board or send it to your mother, maybe you don’t want to send it at all. Messages sent out on the Internet have a way of going public even when you thought it was being sent privately to an individual.

Read mail headers.

Read the headers on mail to determine whether the mail came from an individual or the list, as well as the date it was sent. This will help in determining how best to respond to messages. Also, when replying to a Dairy-L message, a notice will appear at the bottom of your screen that reads “WARNING this message is not going to the original sender.” This should help warn you if you think you are sending a private message when you are not.

Please avoid the use of all capital letters.

Please avoid the use of all capital letters, unless you are trying to emphasize a point. Using all caps has the effect of shouting at the reader.

Identify yourself.

Identify yourself by name, email address, and location in the body of all messages. It is frustrating to respond to a person anonymously. While some addresses contain the name embedded, many do not. Most people create a special file that’s a few lines long. That file is termed a “signature,” and it automatically appears at the end of each email message. If you do not provide a signature on your message, it may be very difficult for someone to identify who you are if they want to send you information privately. Our personal experiences are that for every one response on Dairy-L, we receive two or three privately. To facilitate this mode of receiving information, it is important that you let people know who you are and how to reach you. Most email systems have a signature function that will attach your signature and desired information at the end of every message you send.

Use the subject line.

Use the subject line when originating a message to Dairy-L. In this way, readers can tell by reading the index whether the note is about something they are interested in. In addition, when people respond back to the list using the reply function, that subject will always appear.

Use the delete key liberally.

If you are overwhelmed with mail, there is no need to read every message. Most mail programs allow one to delete mail from the index list without having to read the message.

Use the digest option.

If you wish to consolidate your mail to be more manageable, consider using the “digest” option that will consolidate all your Dairy-L messages from one day into one message sent at midnight EST. Most of the header information is stripped off each message, and the messages are strung together in a digest. The digest is preceded by an index so that you can tell the subject of each message in the digest and approximately where it is. If there is nothing of interest to you, it only takes one stroke of the delete key to eliminate the entire day’s volume of Dairy-L messages.

To activate the digest option, send the following message to


Search the archive.

Search the archive before asking a new question. You can search the archives by email or interactively by Gopher or World Wide Web client software. For more instructions on searching the archives, send an email message to and put the following line in the body of the message:


You will receive instructions by return email message.

Set topics.

Too many messages? Set Dairy-L Topics! You can receive messages only on the topics of interest to you. For more instructions on setting topics, send a message to and put the following line in the body of the message:


You will receive instructions by return email message.


Remember that these guidelines have been established by the longtime members of Dairy-L who have kept Dairy-L functioning as a useful list for 16+ years. As our numbers grow, these guidelines are even more essential if the character of Dairy-L is to remain intact and for Dairy-L to be touted as one of the most effective listservs on the Internet.

Dairy-L is currently a public list (anyone can join). Out of respect for others’ interests and differing points of view, we the moderators would like to keep it that way. However, we do have the option to make it a private list at any time. In so doing, we would control who could or could not be a member. We do not want to do that, but if circumstances warrant such action, we will not hesitate to use it to protect the integrity and activity of the list. A tuned-in, active membership is necessary for the continued success of Dairy-L.

Thank you for your continued interest in Dairy-L and your consideration of the purpose and wishes of the vast majority of Dairy-L members.

Kiera Finucane
Univ. of Maryland

Warren Gilson
Univ. of Georgia