Several years ago, I was asked a question from a friend about their horse needing to add “topline”. They had been told by friends that they needed to feed Brand-X feed to do this. This was a very expensive feed that was popular at the time. My first response was “what are you feeding now?” I didn’t want to know how many flakes of hay or scoops of grain, I wanted to know how many pounds of hay and grain was currently being fed. They dutifully accomplished this task and we calculated the nutrient intake of the horse. To add weight, the primary nutrient is energy, so we focused on how much the horse received daily. We compared this to the energy requirement for maintenance.
Since this horse was being ridden, we added the energy needed for light work. Based on the amount of energy that was supplied compared to the energy requirement, the horse was not getting enough energy in the diet. based on feed intake we could easily increase the amount of hay, in fact, the horse’s total feed intake was only about 1.7% of body weight based on the actual weight of the hay and grain. (One of the problems with feeding flakes/scoops when you don’t know the weight of the flakes/scoops.) I had them increase the hay intake to 2.0% of body weight and not add Brand-X to the diet. Within 30days the “topline” filled in. we were able to increase the energy intake and the protein because we fed more total feed.
The moral to this story is “you cannot spot gain weight just like you can not spot lose weight”. It is possible to “spot” gain muscle by specific exercises but that was not the problem here. Before you start throwing magical feeds and supplements in the feed bucket, determine what you are feeding first and see what you may need.