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The near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) to predict chemical and digestibility parameters was investigated. Samples (n = 168) representing the spectral characteristics of the South African
Medicago sativa L. hay population were chemically analysed for the development of calibration equations. Values for r² and ratio of prediction to deviation (RPD) used as estimates of calibration accuracy for these parameters were classified as follows: good for dry matter (DM) (r² = 0.97; RPD = 4.84), crude protein (CP) (r² = 0.97; RPD = 4.57), acid detergent fibre (ADF) (r² = 0.95; RPD = 3.97), neutral detergent fibre (NDF) (r² = 0.95; RPD = 3.99), lignin (r² = 0.94; RPD = 3.61), ash (r² = 0.93; RPD = 3.12) and chloride (Cl) (r² = 0.95; RPD = 3.74); intermediate for NDF-crude protein (NDF-CP) (r² = 0.91; RPD = 2.96), sugar (r² = 0.91; RPD = 2.82), in vitro organic matter digestibility at 24 hr (IVOMD24) (r² = 0.90; RPD = 2.84) and 48 hr (IVOMD48) (r² = 0.89; RPD = 2.70); and low (RPD <2.31) for soluble protein (SP), ADF-crude protein (ADF-CP), fat, starch, NDF digestibility (NDFD) and the macro minerals (Ca, P, Mg, P, Na and S). The results recorded in the present study indicated that the NIRS technique is acceptable for DM, CP, ADF, NDF, lignin, ash and Cl analysis and for inclusion in quality models.