Phytase: The Essential Tool for Efficient Piglet Production

reading time
Article | 18.04.2022
Natalia Soares, Global Product Manager

Published in International Pig Topics, Volume 37 Number 2

Dealing with all the nutritional stress factors in piglet production is one of the biggest challenges in today's market environment. Cost effectiveness is paramount for any solution or individual additive used in piglet nutrition. However, when formulating diets, the relationship between health, nutrition, welfare and the environment needs to be taken into account.

Amongst the wide range of feed additives promoted for piglet performance, the use of phytase enzymes in piglet diets is essential in optimised production systems because of the improvement and economic advantage which they offer. Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient and one of the most expensive when given as inorganic phosphate sources. The use of phytase to reduce inorganic phosphate use in an indispensable tool for cost reduction, aside from its direct benefit on animal performance and environmental impact (P excretion reduction). 

Over the years, a significant amount of research has been published supporting the positive effect of phytase use on performance, nutrient digestibility and bone mineralisation in piglets and pigs. Yet, the discussion over the most efficient inclusion rate continues, especially in the current context of high prices of inorganic P sources promoting the need for increased use of phytase to keep feed formulations economically viable.

Several dose response research trials showed that phytate breakdown in the gut of pigs when 'standard' levels of phytase (500 FTU) were used is not more than 60%, while higher doses were much more effective. Moreover, it has been observed that the level and the source of calcium (Ca) has an impact on the efficiency of phytase in pigs, which means that this should also be considered when evaluating the best use of the phytase.

Relying on OptiPhos Plus for optimised performance

Huvepharma has conducted several research and field trials to asses the added value of OptiPhos Plus in piglet nutrition. OptiPhos Plus is a highly efficient phytase and its efficacy in improving the zootechnical performance of piglets is linked to the release of extra nutrients from the diet. These effects combined are a strong contribution for piglet production efficiency. 

To support the nutritional and economic value of OptiPhos Plus, a piglet performance trial was conducted in Belgium with 150 Pietrain x RA-SE piglets and five different treatments were compared. 

A P-deficient control treatment was compared with three different OptiPhos Plus doses: 250, 500 and 1,000 FTU/kg. 

Piglet weaning weight was, on average, 8.2kg (mixed-sex) and they were allocated to the different treatments evenly. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of the phytase on performance, apparent total tract digestibility of Ca, P and crude protein (CP) and bone mineralisation.

Two different diets were formulated: a weaner diet (0 - 14 days) and a starter diet (15 - 42 days; Table 1), both with digestible P reduced by 1.5 g/kg, while Ca levels were maintained.

Table 1. Feed and nutrient composition

The main trial results are summarised in Tables 2 and 3 and show that

  • Final body weight (BW), average daily gain (ADG) and daily feed intake (DFI) increased with each increase of 250 FTU/kg feed of phytase.
  • Feed conversion rate (FCR) was reduced by three points with each 250 FTU/kg of phytase included.
  • P, Ca and CP total tract apparent digestibility improved with increasing levels of phytase. 
Table 2. Relevant performance results
Table 3. Apparent total tract digestibility of P, Ca and CP

The performance and digestibility improvements seen can be attributed to the release of phytate-bound P replacing the deficient levels in the negative control diet. Moreover, the higher Ca digestibility due to phytase can be linked to the release of Ca complexed on the phytate molecule. Considering the increased digestibility of P and Ca, the effect seen on bone development (Table 4) was predictable. Increased levels of phytase resulted in increases in the dry weight and crude ash of the metacarpus IV.

Table 4. Metacarpal bone parameters (metacarpus IV, right front leg)


Increasing levels of OptiPhos Plus improves piglet growth performance and improves Ca, P and protein digestibility leading to better bone mineralisation. Evidence supports phytase efficiency and its use combined with the current raw materials market prices, especially for inorganic P sources, pushes for its re-evaluation to ensure optimised piglet performance both in zootechnical and economic parameters.

global presence

Local support from a global company

Huvepharma® has a distribution network which covers more than 90 countries in 6 continents. Find your nearest Huvepharma® representative today.
Find your local contact
about us


Huvepharma® is a fast-growing, global pharmaceutical company with a focus on developing, manufacturing and marketing human and animal health and nutrition products.
more about us

Change country

The Huvepharma® distribution network covers 90 countries in 6 continents. Please select a country from the list below to see the products and services available in that region.

To view all products and services, select Global from the dropdown menu or click .




North America


South America

Change language

Huvepharma has a remarkable distribution network which covers 90 countries in 6 continents. To offer you the best services, we ask you to select your country.


United States

Click here to visit the local website or close this popup to stay on the global website.

Your browser is out of date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now