Irish factories hit a 10-year high in the throughput in sheepmeat, with 2.9 million animals processed.
Hoggets were up 18pc at over 800,000 processed, while spring lamb surged 6pc to 1.69 million and ewes and rams were up 13pc.
Bord Bia's sheep specialist Declan Fennell said New Zealand and Australia account for two thirds of global sheepmeat trade and pointed out the north/south traffic in live sheep was an "integral part" of the sheep sector and Brexit was a serious concern.
At the start of 2017, prices were back 5c/kg on 2016 at €4.77/kg. However, prices surged from the summer onwards amid tightness in supplies. The average prices for new-season lambs reached a record high of €4.84/kg, a 23c/kg rise on the May to December period in 2016.
Exports soared 12pc to €274m.
Mr Fennell pointed out that Easter would come a fortnight early this year on April 1, while the gap between Easter and Ramadan will narrow.
"When we go to 2019, Easter will be around the middle of April and within two weeks we will have Ramadan," he said.
It is estimated the UK market will have a carry over of around one million hoggets.
However, Mr Fennell said he believed there would be less New Zealand lamb exported into the UK next year.
He pointed out the New Zealand breeding flock continues to decline to 17.8 million.