The objective of the current study was to apply the Vitti–Dias model to investigate phosphorus (P) metabolism in growing pigs fed a diet supplemented with microbial phytase. The basal diet contained maize, defatted rice bran, vegetable oil, soybean meal, limestone, salt and a vitamin and mineral mix. There was no inorganic P in the diet and phytase was added at levels of 253, 759, 1265 and 1748 phytase units (PU)/kg of feed. The compartmental model included four pools of P: (1) gut lumen, (2) plasma, (3) bone and (4) soft tissue. A single dose of 32P was administered, and specific radioactivity was measured in plasma, faeces, bone and soft tissue (muscle, heart, liver and kidney) at different times post-dosing for calculation of P flows between pools. Total P absorbed showed a negative relationship with total P excreted in faeces and was strongly correlated with bone P retention, suggesting that absorbed P was channelled to bone to address its physiological growth. Average efficiency of metabolic utilization of absorbed P was estimated to be 0·94, with 0·52 g/g of total net P balance being accreted in bone and the rest in soft tissue (including muscle and some vital organs). The Vitti–Dias model provided suitable representation of P interchange between compartments (in particular, flows between gut and plasma and partitioning of available P between bone and soft tissue), resulting in estimates of P flows comparable with values calculated from balance data.