The objective was to compare the costs of natural service (NS) and timed artificial insemination (TAI) as breeding programs for dairy cows. Both programs were directly compared in a field study from November 2006 to March 2008. Reproductive results in that study were similar and served as inputs for this study. A herd budget accounting for all costs and revenues was created. Net cost during the field study for the NS program was $100.49/cow per year and for the TAI program was $67.80/cow per year, unadjusted for differences in voluntary waiting period for first insemination (VWP) and pregnancy rates (PR). After inclusion of the differences in VWP and PR, the economic advantage of the TAI program was $9.73/cow per year. Costs per day a cow was eligible for insemination were estimated at $1.45 for the NS program and $1.06 for the TAI program. Sensitivity analysis revealed that if the marginal feed cost increased to $5/hundredweight (cwt; 1 cwt=45.36kg), the advantage of TAI increased to $48.32/cow per year. In addition, higher milk prices and greater genetic progress increased the advantage of TAI. When semen price increased from $6 to $22, the NS program had an economic advantage of $33.29/cow per year. If each NS bull was replaced by an additional cow, the advantage of the TAI program was $60.81/cow per year. Setting the PR for both programs at 18% and the VWP at 80 d resulted in an advantage of $37.87/cow per year for the TAI program. In conclusion, any advantage of TAI depended greatly on cost to feed bulls, semen price, and genetic merit of semen.