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Effects of Microbial Phytase on Digestibility of Calcium in Calcium Supplements Fed to Growing Pigs

03 September 2014

Both measures of calcium digestibility were higher for mono- and dicalcium phosphate than for calcium carbonate or products derived from seaweed or sugar beet, according to research at the Hans H. Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The inclusion of microbial phytase increased the digestibility of calcium only in calcium carbonate.

Calcium supplementation is important for swine diets because most commonly used feed ingredients have low concentrations of calcium. In a typical corn-soybean meal diet for a growing pig, the corn and soybean meal contribute only about 16 per cent of the total calcium, with the rest coming from supplements. Apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) values for calcium have not been reported for many common ingredients, and no values for the standardized total tract digestibility (STTD) of calcium have been reported. Therefore, an experiment was conducted to determine the ATTD and STTD of calcium in five calcium supplements.

An additional objective was to test the hypothesis that inclusion of microbial phytase in the diets increases the ATTD and STTD of calcium. Results of previous research has indicated that inclusion of microbial phytase in swine diets often increases the digestibility of calcium, but the effect of phytase on the STTD of calcium in individual ingredients has not been reported.

Experimental Design

Five calcium supplements were used in the experiment. L. calcareum calcium is derived from the red seaweed Lithothamnium calcareum, and is sold commercially under the name 'Vistacal'. Sugar beet coproduct is the "spent lime" left over after calcium carbonate is used to precipitate out impurities in sugar beet juice. It is sold under the name 'LimeX'. Monocalcium phosphate (MCP), dicalcium phosphate (DCP) and calcium carbonate were also tested.

A total of 104 growing barrows with an average initial body weight of 17.73kg were fed one of 13 diets. The basal diet contained 0.33 per cent calcium and 0.44 per cent total phosphorus, and consisted of corn, corn starch, potato protein isolate, soybean oil, calcium carbonate, monosodium phosphate (MSP), vitamins and minerals.

For the MCP diet, MCP was added to the basal diet and MSP was eliminated to yield a diet containing 0.63 per cent calcium and 0.66 per cent total phosphorus. Four other diets contained approximately 0.80 per cent calcium and 0.40 to 0.67 per cent total phosphorus, and were formulated by adding DCP, calcium carbonate, L. calcareum calcium, or sugar beet coproduct to the basal diet at the expense of corn starch and adjusting the inclusion of MSP.

An additional six diets were formulated by adding 500 units per kg of microbial phytase to each of the previous six diets. The thirteenth and final diet contained no calcium and was used to measure basal endogenous losses of calcium.

Calcium Supplements Not Equally Digestible

Regardless of whether or not microbial phytase was added to the diets, the ATTD and STTD of calcium was greatest (P<0.05) in MCP. The ATTD and STTD of calcium in DCP was greater (P<0.05) than in calcium carbonate, L. calcareum calcium, or sugar beet coproduct, which did not differ from each other.

When the mean of all ingredients was analyzed, no interaction between ingredient and response to the addition of microbial phytase was observed. However, when ingredients were analyzed individually, the addition of phytase increased (P<0.05) the ATTD and STTD of calcium in calcium carbonate.

Key Points

Values for ATTD and STTD of calcium were the greatest for MCP, followed by DCP. ATTD and STTD values for calcium in calcium carbonate, L. calcareum calcium, and sugar beet coproduct did not differ.

The inclusion of microbial phytase increased the ATTD and STTD of calcium in calcium carbonate but not in any of the other calcium supplements tested.

Because values for STTD of calcium differ, it is important for diet formulation to use values for STTD of calcium for each source.

Table 1. Apparent and standardised total tract digestibility of calcium in calcium supplements without or with microbial phytase

ItemATTD of Ca, %STTD of Ca, %
No phytase
MCP 82.76 85.86
DCP 75.29 77.80
Calcium carbonate 57.98 60.43
L. calcareum Ca 62.54 64.98
Sugar beet co-product 66.18 68.41
With phytase
MCP 83.24 86.34
DCP 76.39 78.90
Calcium carbonate 70.62 73.07
L. calcareum Ca 66.24 68.67
Sugar beet co-product 63.18 65.41
P-value
Ca source <0.001 <0.001
Phytase 0.173 0.173
Ca source × phytase 0.212 0.212

This report is based on unpublished data by Caroline González-Vega, Carrie L. Walk and Hans H. Stein.

September 2014

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