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Phosphorus (P) in Powdered Milk Replacers



Dietary considerations


Phosphorus is another essential mineral in the body. Some people are familiar with the major role phosphorus plays in the formation of bones and teeth. But it has many other functions as well. Phosphorus works with energy production, mineral metabolism, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues, the body’s use of carbohydrates and fats, and works with protein for growth. The body absorbs more phosphorus when calcium levels are too low, and less phosphorus with calcium levels are too high (see Ca:P ratio). Vitamin D is also needed to absorb phosphorus.


Phosphorus concentration imbalances


If phosphorus levels get too low (hypophosphatemia), fatigue and low energy can result, as well as muscle weakness. In addition, those with low phosphorus concentrations may have kidney issues and poor gastrointestinal absorption. A phosphorus deficiency that occurs concurrent with low levels of calcium and vitamin D can further result in skeletal weakness and pain, ataxia, anemia, and increased risk of infection.


Some patients with excess phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia) may not show symptoms. While in others, symptoms may be similar to those of patients with low phosphorus concentrations, including joint and muscle pain and muscle weakness.  Since the public may feed some wild animals a proportionately large amount of foods (such as seeds and nuts) that are high in phosphorus, it is not uncommon for rehabilitators to admit animals with excess phosphorus.


Since the correct range of concentration values for all species are different, and since wild species milk composition is very limited, reference values for whole and lowfat dry milk are provided in the chart.

Phosphorus chart.jpg

Since averages can at times be misleading, a closer look at a few of the products where multiple test values are available between time periods, can reveal how the concentration values may have changed over time. Then if those changes are significant, either increase or decrease, the reader may want to focus on the most recent profile of the product. 


Even though some of the changes reflected below may be significant over time, simply trying to adjust with supplements requires considerable knowledge and has the potential to worsen an adverse situation. Please review the section on mineral supplementation in the minerals overview.

Phosphorus changes overtime.jpg

References and further reading (not intended as an exhaustive list)


Brown, Susan. 2014. Key Minerals for Bone Health. Bone Nutrition. July.


Cashman, Kevin and Albert Flynn. 1999. Optimum Nutrition: Calcium, Manganese, and Phosphorus. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. V. 58, pp. 477-487.


Moe, Sharon. 2008. Disorders Involving Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. Primary Care. V. 35(2) pp 215-vi. 

The information included on this website for dietary minerals is extremely narrow in its scope and nature. It is limited to certain charts and graphs displaying content values (% of total) of various powdered milk replacers as tested by an independent chemical lab. Extremely brief overview information is provided as to the primary nutritional and medical benefits of each mineral, as well as a limited discussion of issues that may arise from concentration levels in the body that may be considered deficit or toxic. Entire textbooks on dietary minerals are written for the medical and veterinary professions, in addition to the internet providing ready access to both scholarly and popular literature. Some of those references are included above.


The data values presented above only represent the test values for the presence and concentration of the mineral conducted according to standard chemical testing methods in a controlled laboratory setting. Any point test value is accompanied by a measurement uncertainty range of +/-20%. The concentration values are in no measure an indication of how much of the mineral may be provided to an animal in reconstituted formula or its bioavailability (its degree of digestibility, absorption, or ultimate utilization). Additionally, no testing was performed as to the source of the mineral in the product (such as inorganic salts) or the grade of any added supplements containing the mineral.


What the data can do is inform the reader as to (1) concentration levels in a product as most recently tested (2) changes over time and between lots, and (3) comparisons of relative concentration levels between products. It is merely data that may serve as a starting point when deciding on a milk replacer product(s) and a recipe, or information to consider if certain medical symptoms appear that could be a result of absence or excess of a specific mineral in the formula. The reader is encouraged to consult veterinary or nutritional professionals prior to providing additional supplementation of any mineral.

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