Improving estimations of phosphorus bioavailability for lactating dairy cows
Phosphorus (P) is an instrumental nutrient in numerous physiological processes, but can have detrimental environmental impact if fed in excess. Increased P intake in dairy cows leads to increased fecal excretion of P and a reduction in efficiency of use. Variability in P concentration or availability in feedstuffs can exacerbate P excretion. To investigate variability in P between and within feedstuffs, 170 feed samples (forages, concentrates, and by-products), were collected from across the U.S., classified by region fed, and analyzed for total P, inorganic P, and phytate. Forages contained a greater proportion of P in the inorganic form and less total P and phytate as compared to concentrates and by-products. The majority of total P (71.2, 81.8, and 81.9% of total P in forages, concentrates, and by-products, respectively) was associated with inorganic P and phytate. The enzyme phytase has been used successfully in swine and poultry nutrition, as a feed additive, to increase available P and reduce the need for supplemental inorganic P. An experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of phytase use and forage particle length, using a 2 x 2 factorial, on P availability in lactating dairy cows. Total P intake of the four diets was similar (P > 0.15). Total tract digestibility of total P tended (P < 0.10) to be reduced and total P excretion was increased (P < 0.05) with phytase supplementation. Milk fat yield, protein yield, 3.5% FCM, and ECM were increased (P < 0.05) with addition of exogenous phytase to the diet. This indicates that phytate may contain some anti-nutritional factors that reduce availability in other nutrients used for milk production. Variation in P compounds between feeds, and variation in P digestion and production performance with exogenous phytase suggests opportunity for improvement in prediction of P availability from feeds for lactating cows.