Full Paper


Nutritional geometry of calcium and phosphorus nutrition in broiler chicks. The effect of different dietary calcium and phosphorus concentrations and ratios on nutrient digestibility

S. J. Wilkinsona1 c1, E. J. Bradburya1, P. C. Thomsona2, M. R. Bedforda3 and A. J. Cowiesona1

a1 Poultry Research Foundation, The University of Sydney, Faculty of Veterinary Science, 425 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia

a2 Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia

a3 AB Vista Feed Ingredients, Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN84AN, UK


A total of 600 Ross 308-day-old male broiler chicks were used in a 28 day digestibility study to investigate the interaction between dietary calcium (Ca) and non-phytate phosphorus (nPP) on the digestibility of minerals and amino acids. Diets were formulated to be nutritionally adequate except for Ca and nPP. Fifteen mash diets based on corn and soya bean meal with varying concentrations of Ca (6.4 to 12.0 g/kg) and nPP (2.4 to 7.0 g/kg) were used. Diets were clustered around total densities of Ca and nPP of 12, 13.5 or 15.0 (g/kg) and within each density, a range of five Ca : nPP ratios (1.14 : 1, 1.5 : 1, 2.0 : 1, 2.75 : 1 and 4.0 : 1) were fed. Birds had free access to feed and water throughout the study. At day 28, birds were euthanised for the determination of apparent ileal mineral and amino acid digestibility. Data were modelled in R version 2.15 using a linear mixed-effects model and interrogation of the data was performed by fitting a low order polynomial function. At high Ca concentrations, increasing nPP led to an increase in the apparent digestibility of minerals. Apparent ileal digestibility of phosphorus (P) was enhanced with increasing dietary nPP up to 5.5 g/kg beyond which no improvements were found. Maximal Ca digestibility was found in diets with >8.0 g/kg Ca with concomitant low concentrations of nPP. Diets with a broader Ca : nPP ratio improved the digestibility of Ca but were deleterious to the digestibility of P. In this study, apparent digestibility of amino acids was broadly unaffected by dietary Ca and nPP concentrations. However, interactions between Ca and nPP were observed for the digestibility of glutamine, tyrosine and methionine (all P<0.001). Nitrogen digestibility showed discrete optima around 10.0 and 5.0 g/kg nPP and Na digestibility was maximised around 8 to 9.0 g/kg Ca and 4.5 to 5.4 g/kg nPP. These data show that the ratio of Ca : nPP is more influential to mineral digestibility than the absolute dietary concentration of each macro mineral.

(Received December 15 2013)

(Accepted March 07 2014)

(Online publication May 19 2014)


  • broilers;
  • calcium;
  • geometric framework;
  • phosphorus


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