Phosphorus utilization in finishing broiler chickens: effects of dietary calcium and microbial phytase

Poult Sci. 2012 Nov;91(11):2829-37. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02350.


A decrease in dietary P, especially in finishing broilers (21 to 38 d old), is a crucial issue in poultry production from an environmental and economic point of view. Nevertheless, P must be considered together with other dietary components such as Ca and microbial phytase. Different corn and soybean meal-based diets varying in Ca [low (LCa) 0.37, medium (MCa) 0.57, and high (HCa) 0.77%], and nonphytate P [nPP; low (LnPP) 0.18 and high (HnPP) 0.32%] content were tested with and without microbial phytase [0 or 500 phytase units (FTU)/kg]. Feed intake, BW gain, bone mineralization, and mineral retention were examined in 144 Ross PM3 broilers (22 to 38 d old) reared in individual cages. Growth performance was not significantly affected by the treatments. Nevertheless, a numerical decrease of ADG and ADFI was observed in HCa-LnPP and LCa-HnPP associated with an increase of feed conversion ratio. Decreased dietary Ca reduced tibia ash content (Ca, linear: P < 0.001; quadratic: P = 0.034) and tibia ash weight for the highest level of nPP (Ca × nPP; P = 0.035). In parallel, increasing dietary Ca reduced the flow of retained P (P = 0.022) but also tibia ash weight in LnPP diets (Ca × nPP; P = 0.035). The responses of the animals in terms of tibia ash content and P retention were improved by the addition of microbial phytase especially for the lowest P diets (nPP × phytase, P = 0.021 and P = 0.009; respectively). Phytase increased dry tibia weight, bone breaking strength, and tibia diameter in broilers fed the highest Ca diets (Ca × phytase; P < 0.05). We conclude that is possible to decrease P levels in finishing broilers, if the Ca content is appropriate. Nevertheless, decreasing the dietary P and Ca cannot allow a maximization of bone mineralization, but the optimal threshold remains to be determined.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • 6-Phytase / classification
  • 6-Phytase / metabolism*
  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Development
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Chickens / metabolism*
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Male
  • Phosphorus / metabolism*


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Phosphorus
  • 6-Phytase
  • Calcium