Dairy industry leaders are braced for a Christmas of discontent, as milk price protests kick off.

Farmers for Action boss David Handley has vowed to bring out the barricades next week unless processors make progress securing milk price rises for farmers. Stage two of the NFU's milk invoicing campaign will be launched next week, to highlight losses made by dairy farmers.

"Everybody is disillusioned - we've been here before," said Handley. "We've been in talks with retailers about milk prices and they say they would have no problem with justifiable cost price increases."

FFA is asking for a 3-4ppl increase in line with the findings of an NFU survey earlier this year.

But the union is planning a less militant campaign to draw attention to low farm-gate prices. A series of publicity stunts will draw on new cost-of-production figures from 1,500 respondents to the NFU's invoicing campaign.

"If you extrapolate the whole sample size in England and Wales, the gap between what farmers are being paid and their production costs is about £300m a year," said NFU dairy adviser Tom Hind. The disappointing number of responses should double by February, he added, but still provided valuable information.

The NFU plans to line up an invoice next to one of the concrete cows that decorate Milton Keynes. "The message is: 'If farmers don't get paid more, these are the only cows that'll be left in Britain'." Latest figures from the Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate show that in the year to November, 985 dairy farms quit milk production - around 7% of the total.

NFU is also considering presenting retailers with a cheque to sign in favour of British dairy farming equating to the amount farmers have lost. But Hind said the aim was to avoid confrontation with milk buyers.