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Growth, Water Intake, Litter Moisture, Carcass and Physiological Traits of Broiler Chickens as Affected by Dietary Potassium

17 February 2014

Broiler growth performance was better with a lower level of potassium in an experiment in South Korea. Substituting potassium sulphate for the carbonate salt improved water and feed intake, increased mortality and affected carcass composition.

Growth, water intake, litter moisture, carcass and physiological traits of broiler chickens fed varying levels and sources of potassium under a phase-feeding system are reported in a paper published in Livestock Science by first-named author, M.M.H. Mushtaq at South Korea's National Institute of Animal Science.

The concept of dietary electrolyte balance (DEB) was evaluated using day-old straight-run Hubbard broiler chicks (n=1,472) and four dietary potassium levels (0.86, 1.02, 1.18 and 1.34 per cent) and two sources of dietary potassium salt — potassium carbonate (K2CO3) and potassium sulphate (K2SO4) — in a 4×2 factorial arrangement of treatments. The four dietary potassium levels corresponded to DEB values of 200, 240, 280 and 320mEq per kg, respectively.

Each of the eight dietary treatments was randomly allocated to four replicates with 46 birds per replicate.

The experimental diets were prepared separately for each phase, i.e. pre-starter (days 1–10), starter (days 11–20), grower (days 21–33) and finisher (days 34–42).

Analysed water characteristics (pH, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids) and electrolytes were found within the recommended range.

Feed intake (P=0.05), daily water intake (P=0.04), and mortality (P=0.02) were increased by replacing potassium carbonate with potassium sulphate.

The source and level interaction was found to affect litter moisture (P=0.04).

Either varying levels or replacing salts of dietary potassium did not result in improved growth performance that was mainly associated with the simultaneously reduced capacity of the digestive (gizzard and proventriculus) and lymphoid (bursa and spleen) organs of the body.

The dietary potassium and changing salt (potassium carbonate with potassium sulphate) resulted in a greater dressing percentage (P=0.008), abdominal fat (P=0.03) and blood pH (P=0.01) but did not affect body, breast and thigh weights.

Increasing serum potassium, sodium and carbonate were compensated with reduced serum calcium and chloride in higher dietary potassium diets.

It is inferred that lower levels of dietary potassium (0.86 per cent) could be used to enhance broiler growth, concluded Mushtaq and co-authors. 

The supplementation of potassium sulphate improved feed and water intake but reduced livability.

The increasing supplementation of dietary potassium from potassium sulphate improved carcass responses and reduced the digestive and lymphoid organ capacity.


Mushtaq M.M.H., T.N. Pasha, T. Mushtaq, M. Akram, S. Mahmood, U. Farooq and R. Parvin. 2014.  Growth, water intake, litter moisture, carcass and physiological traits of broiler chickens fed varying levels and sources of potassium under phase feeding system. Livestock Science. 159:61–66.

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

February 2014

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