How should we use higher levels of phytase to ameliorate current volatility prices of Monocalcium Phosphate in Swine?

How should we use higher levels of phytase to ameliorate current volatility prices of Monocalcium Phosphate in Swine?

Laura Merriman, Spenser Becker, Gustavo Cordero, and Pete Wilcock

The volatility of ingredient pricing and availability of ingredients is at the forefront of most nutritionists’ and formulators’ minds these days. Phosphates are no exception with monocalcium phosphate (MCP) costing around $1,000 per ton, an increase of over $500 since January 2021 (Fig. 1). With phosphorus being essential for the growth and bone formation of the pig, it is important to consider that the requirement for this nutrient is met as economically as possible.

Fig. 1. Prices for monocalcium phosphate, 2020-2022 (Source: Feed Info)

It is well recognized that phytase is an effective option for replacing inorganic phosphate in the diet, but is it time for nutritionists and formulators to review the level of dietary phytase used in the face of increasing MCP prices?  Increasing phytase levels above the standard level (500 FTU/kg) may be a useful tool in ameliorating the high dietary costs associated with increasing MCP prices. Some considerations when looking at increasing dietary phytase levels to release more available phosphorus (avP) are the phytase used, the level of dietary substrate (i.e., phytate), and understanding the avP matrix release of the phytase.

Selecting the right phytase is a key component for achieving your desired nutritional approach. It is important to utilize a phytase that has a high affinity for phytate, particularly the lower phytate esters (IP2-IP4), when targeting higher avP releases since this would require phytate destruction beyond 85%.  Hence, choosing a phytase that has a very strong supporting dataset in understanding the phytase enzymatic characteristics (i.e., km and kcat) as well as in determining the avP release is critical in ensuring that nutritionists consistently achieve the higher avP release expected.

  • It is important to consider substrate availability when applying a higher phytase matrix for a greater avP release. Therefore, discussing with your phytase supplier the dietary phytate levels is key in being confident that you can achieve the higher avP release. Using NIR technology, nutritionists can now quickly and easily determine these values in their feed and actual ingredients (Fig. 2) to ensure that you can get a consistent avP release.

Fig. 2. Phytate concentration of ingredients in the U.S. based on NIR

Source: AB Vista Laboratory samples from September 2021 to September 2022.

  • Understanding the avP release of phytases is important as some phytases will have a matrix release based on 90% confidence limits, meaning the phytase will provide the expected release more than 90% of the time rather than an average release, which means the expected release will only be met 50% of the time. Therefore, nutritionists can more confidently make these adjustments to higher phytase use and avP release knowing that a 90% confidence limit has been applied to the phosphorus release matrix, thus ensuring a consistent release.

Taking these factors into account, a nutritionist using a more moderate or standard dose of phytase (500 FTU/kg) can consider increasing their dietary inclusion of phytase to higher levels such as 1,000 FTU/kg. Based on Quantum Blue (AB Vista), a phytase selected for the fast breakdown of phytate and lower phytate esters, utilizing greater levels of phytase (1000 FTU/kg v 500 FTU/kg) at the expense of dietary MCP would increase your phytase contribution of calcium from 0.165 to 0.215 and available phosphorus from 0.15 to 0.195 (90% confidence limits applied). Two years ago this approach would have saved approximately $0.90 to $1.00 per treated ton, providing a good investment for the producer. Today however, that benefit would be around $1.60 to $1.75 per treated ton, providing an even greater financial return due to the increased feed cost associated with MCP prices. (Note: savings based on an early finisher pig diet; no dietary phytate limitation and Quantum Blue phytase.)

Nutritionists can confidently make the adjustments to increasing dietary phytase levels to optimize feed cost savings by measuring dietary phytate coupled with selecting a phytase (e.g., Quantum Blue) that provides a consistent avP release. This consistent response would be due to the effective breakdown of phytate and lower phytate esters. Furthermore, it’s important to select a phytase with a robust dataset supporting the release values and also 90% confidence limits.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Laura Merriman, swine technical service at AB Vista, at